I used to love to go thrift shopping with my best friend Molly back in high school.
There was something about the hunt for treasures that I couldn’t resist. We frequented a few great shops in our area full of designer finds and perfectly worn-in Levis, and bowling shirts. For some reason, Molly couldn’t get enough of bowling shirts.
Back then, I did it because I couldn’t afford the clothes I wanted in the mall. My mom wasn’t really into just buying me clothes whenever I wanted them. And my summer gig as a lifeguard didn’t pay all that well. Plus, clothes were more expensive back then. We didn’t have Forever 21. We had The Gap and Bebe. (If we had had Forever 21, my $20, weekly allowance would have been divided up between gas for the Dodge Neon, a pack of Parliament Lights and some sort of tube dress for the weekend, I’m sure.)
So we thrift shopped instead.
Though I suppose to leave out the impact of Dazed and Confused on our fashion choices wouldn’t be telling the whole story. We pined over vintage tees, wispy embroidered things, and authentic, throwback bell-bottoms.
Once I moved to New York, my favorite thrift shops became the Housing Works Thrift Shop in the West Village, and Second Time Around on the Upper East Side, two spots where rich people dumped their stuff.
And I love secondhand shopping to this day. I did some out in San Fran while on our cross-country trip, it’s one of my favorite places to snoop around for treasures. And I actually did some just yesterday and I got a linen vest I’m a little too excited about. Yes, I said linen vest.
Nowadays, though, I shop secondhand for reasons other than just the savings, the thrill of the hunt, and my affinity for all things ’70s.
You see, once I started learning about the impact of the fashion industry on both the environment and the dignity for women across the globe, secondhand shopping became the simplest way for me to make better choices. Choices that didn’t require much research. And choices that I didn’t feel were compromising my soul.
Once you learn certain things, you can’t unlearn them. And now the steals to be had at Target, H&M and Forever 21 no longer feel like steals to me. They feel more like the exploitation of human beings and natural resources. Whether we want to think about it or not, most of our clothing is produced in sweatshops and our demand for it, is crushing the environment.
So I started looking into alternatives.
There are tons of high-quality, transparent and ethical brands changing the tides of the industry. And we love them here at Crop Tops & Kale. But there are two challenges I found in shopping them.
1. I’m sort of cheap when it comes to clothing. I would much prefer to see my savings account increase than my closet fill up. And high quality, locally sourced, eco-friendly, naturally dyed, water conscious, ethical clothing can be pricey (not to mention hard to find).
2. The problem is much is bigger than just the ethics of clothing. The problem is the sheer amount of clothing that’s being produced worldwide to satisfy our insatiable appetites for style. No matter how environmentally friendly something was produced, there’s still far too much of it. When you factor in the unseen costs, like water usage, reliance on fossil fuels and the off-gassing of garments in landfills (which contributes to global warming), you’ll see that it’s completely unsustainable.
A few facts:
- We create millions of tons of fabric across the globe annually, especially in China.
- In America, the average individual discards of 68 lbs of clothing every, single year, which adds up to 23.8 billion (with a B!) pounds of clothing that windup in landfills, off-gassing as they decompose over hundreds of years and warming up the planet.
- We spend, on average, $2000 per year, per household on clothing and yet most of us couldn’t find $400 in an emergency if we needed to.
You guys! That is nuts!
So this is where I see secondhand shopping as a great solution, a fun, affordable and eco-friendly solution.
From our girl, Greta Eagan’s book Wear No Evil:
Secondhand cycling is one of the best ways to participate in sustainable fashion. Nothing is more effective in saving our resources than using what already exists.
When I snag something at the thrift shop, I am saving that garment from winding up in a landfill and simultaneously decreasing the demand for more new clothing as well. And if everyone started shopping secondhand, the demand for new clothing would plummet.
At this point, the world has enough clothing in circulation to last us for forever, there’s just no need for more of it. (And for the record, that’s a totally unsubstantiated claim based on the opinion of my soul.)
So since I came to this realization about the evils of the fashion industry, I’ve reverted back to my high school M.O. of shopping mostly secondhand (except of course for undies and swimwear and shoes, except ones you wear with socks).
I feel great about it and it’s fun.
I’ve actually shopped a bunch at thredUp lately, which is by far my favorite (online) secondhand retailer. We might even have a little series coming up to showcase some of my finds and throw a few discounts your way. You know, should you want to dabble in saving the planet through your own closet as well.
Oh and if you’re interested, we have a little guide to some styling tips for everything you already own. Just pop your email in below and we’ll send it over.
[Main image from thredUp]
Also published on Medium.