Updated: Mar 2, 2021
Aside from the ever so popular rap song from 2012, thrift shopping is a cheap, sustainable method of buying clothes. Thrifting extends the use of clothing that would otherwise be thrown away and keeps them out of landfills and the environment.
What Exactly Are Thrift Shops?
Thrift shops are stores that sell second-hand clothing, usually at an extremely cheap price. Most of them consist of clothing and other merchandise that are donated by people looking to clear out their closets. Many non-profit organizations such as the American Cancer Society and Goodwill, open charity-shops, which are basically thrift shops that donate their profits towards the charity. Goodwill's proceeds give back to the community, creating job opportunities and funding programs to help people find jobs.
Why Thrift Shopping Is Sustainable
Clothes in thrift shops almost always are second-hand clothing that come from the fast fashion industry. It extends the life of a piece of clothing that would otherwise contribute to the thirteen million tons, yes THIRTEEN MILLION TONS, of textiles that are thrown away every year. And 95% of that unfortunately large number could have been repurposed or reused. Despite that huge number, clothes are constantly in high demand and the wasteful cycle created by fast fashion only piles onto the growing number of clothes that end-up in the landfill every year.
Fast Fashion and Why Its Killing The Environment
Aside from the catastrophic amount of waste that comes from the end of clothes, let's talk about the true cost of cheap clothes.
What is Fast Fashion
Fast fashion borrows the general design of clothes off of high-end walkways and reproduces them into affordable clothing in a devastatingly fast process. Most stores online and at the mall are categorized as fast fashion.
The True Cost of Fast Fashion
In order to produce clothing at a low cost and a short amount of time, companies cut corners to ensure that consumers are able to readily keep up with the latest fashion trends. To understand the inner-workings of the fast fashion industry, let's first pull back the curtains that keep customers oblivious to the true cost of their clothing.
Many companies involved in the fast fashion industry resort to using extremely cheap human labor to produce massive amounts of clothes in short periods of time. This results in people in third world countries working 16-17 hour shifts in dirty working conditions that rival those of during the time of the industrial revolution. Workers are often paid below living wage, which is the bare amount of money needed to fulfill a family’s basic needs, and work in conditions that have poor ventilation, which leads to workers inhaling toxic chemicals from the synthetic clothing they are working with. Child labor is also an unfortunately recurring trend within factories.
Sweatshops in India where many companies source their labor. (source: pinterest.co.uk)
On top of violating basic human rights, the industry’s production and transportation of clothes rack up an alarming amount of pollution and carbon emissions. Polyester, which is a synthetic material that is commonly used to make about 60% of garments, doesn't break down in the environment and can release micro-plastic into the ocean. Producing this plastic also emits two to three times more carbon compared to cotton. In total the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions.
So the next time you want to buy clothes, think about heading to your nearest thrift store to help the earth and give back to your community.