Is Thrifting Sustainable: What To Know About SecondHand Shopping

Thrifting has been growing more in popularity. People are no longer looking to buy new items, but prefer to purchase thrift items instead. This is much more affordable, and also more sustainable. 

But is thrifting sustainable, or is it just another form of mass consumption? Can local thrift shops and shopping second hand actually change consumers and lead to environmental benefits? Let’s find out! 

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What Is Thrifting?

Thrifting is the process of going to a thrift shop to buy discounted items rather than buying them from a new-item shop. Thrifting also means reselling your clothes rather than throwing them away in a landfill.

Thrifted items are typically second-hand pieces that had a previous owner but are in a condition that’s good enough to find a new life with a new owner.

Thrifted items are generally sold not because the owners saw them as old and used but because they grew bored of them or didn’t use the products anymore. And buying second hand, in dedicated stores, is gaining popularity very fast!

How Does Reselling Help Sustainability 

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Sustainability is preserving our resources without leaving too much waste in our wake. It means to fulfill our needs without preventing future generations from doing the same. 

The concept aims for environmental protection and social and economic development. It implies using our resources as much as possible, preventing used items from ending up in the garbage.

The 3 Rs of waste management describe the sustainability of the environment: reducing, reusing, and recycling items. Each product has its type of management, and while plastic and paper are typically recycled, clothing and furniture are resold and reused.

Reselling is an excellent option to help sustainability, as it prevents products that are otherwise in good condition from becoming waste. It makes the most of all our resources so that nothing is lost and future generations may enjoy the same products. 

Benefits of Thrifting 

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Thrifting comes with various benefits. Not only are they good for us as the buyers, but they are also great for the environment. Here are some ways thrifting can help influence shopping choices, as well as the production process in the fashion industry.

  1. Quality Products at a Lower Price

One of the best parts of going to thrift stores rather than buying new from a store is that you can buy great products at a bargain. You’d be surprised how many designer products you can find in thrift shops, from durable vegan combat boots to lovely designer wedding dresses. And a lot of them are in excellent condition.

  1. Reduced Product Waste

All of our waste, unless recycled, will probably end up in landfills. Unlike plastic or glass, which can be melted and reshaped, things such as clothes or furniture are not as easily recycled – not even sustainable furniture. Once they get thrown out, they reach landfills, where they can take hundreds of years until they break down.

That being said, when they are resold, these items no longer face the landfill. Reselling is just another form of recycling, and it helps you save the planet by simply changing the bin for a shelf. In a nutshell, this method of recycling textiles can make even fast fashion industry products into sustainable fashion – up to a point.

  1. Vintage Products for Enthusiasts

Not everyone likes modern products. Someone might prefer getting a Victorian corset, for example, to make their dresses look nicer. Others may prefer the baroque-style couches to the contemporary ones you find on the market. It’s hard to find these items new, so your only shot is to buy them from a thrift shop. 

For example, retro clothing is back in fashion; by reselling clothes now, you are putting them back in circulation so that a potential vintage enthusiast might find them in the future. With the fashion industry’s trends and their repetitive nature, you can almost bet that existing clothes or even old clothes will become very trendy again!

  1. Supports Local Businesses

When you buy from a thrift store or sell your used items there, you choose to support a local business. If you want to shop sustainably, the story doesn’t need to end with second hand shopping – where you do it is also important.

Some of these shops or online thrift stores are even connected to local charities, so by selling your clothes or used itemsthere, you are helping those around you.

  1. Smaller Carbon Footprint

In the past, clothing manufacturing was easier on the environment. People would sew by hand, use local materials, and not employ many resources. Secondhand goods and used clothing used to be the norm, and there was rarely a massive pile of clothes waiting for the landfill.

You help prevent the needless use of high amounts of energy by reselling. You reduce your carbon footprint just a little – but the more people thrift their used items, the fewer clothes fast-fashion manufacturers will have to make. With small steps, you’ll be aiding your planet’s sustainability efforts.

  1. Helps Preserve Water

Creating new products uses plenty of water – water that we desperately need and that we are running low on. How’s water involved in that?

Well, it takes about 10,000 liters of water to grow just one kilogram of cotton, which we use to make textiles for clothing, upholstery, and many more. By thrifting, you reduce the demand for new clothing and do your part in sustaining the environment. Sustainable and ethical fashion practices might be just as crucial for the planet as turning off your faucet when brushing your teeth.

  1. Less Chemical Pollution

Clothes ending up in landfills are not the only things that pollute the earth. Making those items can send lots of chemical solutions into the air as well, which can affect the ozone layer. Factories send smoke into the air, and farms use pesticides to grow plants needed to create fabric.

By thrifting, you once more reduce demand. Fast-fashion manufacturers will no longer have to produce as much clothing, which will reduce the need to use chemical products in their creation. The world’s carbon emissions are not good as is, so any effort we can make – including shopping secondhand – is a step in the right direction.

The Challenges of Thrifting 

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Here are some of the challenges you should keep in mind:

  1. Demand Can Raise the Prices

Increased demand might lead to product scarcity and more operating costs. The items may be donated or resold at a relatively low price at first, but the operating costs may become much higher. This includes everything from transportation to the store’s rent going up as a result of the expansion. 

Combined with inflation, this may lead to a rise in prices. The more things are bought, the more difficult it will become to procure them. Thrift stores often take advantage of this popularity, especially when they receive high-end, relatively new pieces. With unique or unused items, you may have to buy them at a similar price to the original store.

  1. Quality May Not Always Be Superior

Thrift shops sell second-hand items, you may find a high-quality designer piece in good condition there, but you may also come across fast fashion that fades from the moment you first wash it. 

People aren’t always thrifting good-quality items, and if an item doesn’t include a tag, you can’t know exactly what you are buying. Unless you know how to recognize a good-quality product, you are likely to overpay.

  1. Sellers May Not Always Get a Good Price

Thrifting is a good option for those looking for low-priced items, but it is not always such a great deal for those selling the products.

For instance, let’s say that you just bought a beautiful pair of designer boots, only to test them out and discover that they do not fit properly. Sending them back is not always worth it, especially if you buy internationally. 

This means you will have to sell them to get at least some of your money. The issue is that even if the product is new, you will have to lower the price for it – sometimes a lot.

Considering the money you paid for it in the first place, it might be sustainable for the environment, but it’s not as sustainable for your wallet. 

  1. “Fun” Thrifting Might Take Clothing Away from the Needy

We’ve established that, overall, thrifting is good for the environment. However, for those in less fortunate financial situations, the rising popularity of thrifting is ironically not ideal.

This is because all average or high-income buyers are now looking for the “good stuff” in thrift stores, buying all the new or best condition items, even if they technically could have bought new clothes. 

This can lead to a scarcity of the products, affecting those in need who cannot afford clothing from a retail or designer shop.

Low income families tend to buy their clothing from thrift stores. So, when these pieces get hogged by the average-income people who thrift for “fun,” they can no longer be bought by the lower income people who actually need them.

  1. Hauls in Thrift Shops Might Encourage Overconsumption

Very few thrift shop goers visit these stores because they need something, and they go because they saw an opportunity for thrift hauls – for example, 1 pound of clothing for $1.

Or maybe each piece of clothing at 50 cents. These prices will encourage hauls, which will also promote overconsumption.

Such practices remove the “zero waste” agenda from the idea behind getting second hand clothes. Buyers won’t necessarily get those items because they need them, but because they are cheap and “they might come in handy one day.”

Half of those pieces are barely ever worn, and they end up sitting in the closet until they are probably resold or sent to the landfill. 

Popular Thrifting Locations 

There is a massive second hand market out there, and thrifting is a great way to tap into it. Thrifting can be done in various locations, but here are the most popular options for people who want to do it by the book.

  1. Local Thrift Stores

Local thrift stores are the best bet for reselling clothes because buyers will likely get good-quality items for low prices. Check the best-rated ones in your town first.

Whether you’re trying to get rid of unwanted clothes, or simply want to try shopping secondhand, thrift shopping is a great starting point.

  1. Flea Markets

Flea markets are a good option for those who want to buy or sell products of any kind. Each town has its share of flea markets, so you’ll most likely find one in your area.

Buying or selling on flea markets is another great way to shop secondhand and reuse clothing. What makes it stand out is a more personal buying/selling experience than the one you get in second hand shops.

  1. Online Thrift Shops

Online thrift shops are also becoming increasingly popular, especially among people who don’t have time to go to the shop. You may compare many shops, such as Vendoo vs List Perfectly, Crosslist, and many more. Go through their delivery options and find a platform that works best for you. 

  1. Goodwill 

Goodwill only accepts donations, so if you want to get money back for your items, you might not be able to do that here. However, the items get sold at a low price, with the money going to charity.

The items that end up at Goodwill are likely the ones that would have ended up in the landfill, so it’s a sustainable option for the planet. 

Final Thoughts

Thrifting is an excellent option to help the environment because you reduce the use of resources that the environment needs so much. Thrifting allows you to shop with a purpose, as the items you buy are saved from the landfill. 

So yes, thrifting is sustainable. You’re not only saving the planet; you’re saving your wallet too. Plus, thrifting is fun: the process of searching for hidden gems in the thrift shop is an experience you will enjoy. You’ll get to wear unique clothes that you can’t find in all fast-fashion stores.

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