A ring light’s glare reflects in her eyes. A YouTuber gestures to a massive pile of clothing on her bed. Odds are that the clothes are brand new, shoddily made, and will head to one place soon enough: the landfill. This problem is encompassed by the term textile waste. Textile waste is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as waste resulting from the circulation of nondurable goods (EPA). Nondurable goods are items which are thought to be useful for only about three years (EPA). Textile waste is concerning as it contributes significantly to landfill volumes.
Meanwhile, the textile manufacturing and decomposition process leads to compounding issues such as air and water pollution (Utebay et al.) Simply put, fast fashion is a precursor to textile waste. As such, there are also ethical concerns surrounding textile waste. Fast fashion systems perpetuate exploitative labor practices in the developing world and even violence against women (Green America).
You and me both have a role in all this. Consider the estimated amount of clothing waste an individual in the United States produces in a year – 81.6 pounds (BBC). Given that, we can play an active role in decreasing textile waste and lessening support for the fast fashion industry. By taking action to decrease our consumption of unsustainable goods, we can decrease the expected amount of clothing related waste, not to mention the suffering that accompanies it.
There is hope because of this possibility. It might be for every YouTuber doing a fast fashion haul, there is one showing off something they picked up at the flea market. There is an ever-surging public interest when it comes to gently used articles of clothing. The market for secondhand clothes is projected to grow massively in the upcoming years, with the prediction that it will be constitute around $84 billion by the time 2030 comes around (Harper’s Bazaar). It is thought that fast fashion, which constitutes the manufacturing and sale of unsustainable clothing, will account for less than half that amount by the same year (Harper’s Bazaar). Statistics like this show us that there is a real alternative to shopping for brand new items and fueling fast fashion.
You may be wondering about the state of thrift stores since COVID-19. Shopping at the height of the pandemic was a highly fraught task, reserved for essentials like groceries. Thrift stores naturally saw much less patronage during that time, but so did conventional stores. You would think that this trend has continued as the pandemic has dragged on, with people being afraid of disease lingering on clothing.
However, the fear seems to have eased as thrift stores are doing well. Fast fashion has not fared as well. The economic impact of COVID-19 cannot be overstated. Fast fashion recently underwent an almost complete collapse in terms of its supply systems (Brydges et al). Individuals lost their sources of income as work became too dangerous.
Given these dynamics, it is no wonder then that thrift stores are experiencing surges in patronage as well as donations, as some people seek to save money while others seek to lighten their house’s load (The Columbian). Concurrently, social media of course continues to be a behemoth, and apps like TikTok have users that showcase their finds. This encourages others among the younger generations to shop more sustainably, according to a thrift store customer interviewed by a local newspaper (Williams, The Columbian).
We have collectively decided that the possible drawbacks to thrifting are surmountable. There are many thrifting options still available to us despite the pandemic. Please read on to learn more about thrifting!
Disclaimer: For your safety and hygiene, make sure to thoroughly wash any clothing you buy before you wear it. This applies whether it’s thrifted or not!
Read on to learn about the various options you have when it comes to thrifting!
Depop is a popular app which was launched in 2011. Users can sell items such as clothes and handmade jewelry on the app. I have bought many high quality vintage dresses from Depop.
Websites (including Luxury Consignment sites)
Swap meets are a wonderful way to meet new people while “shopping” consciously and without any real cost. Of course, keep safety in mind if you elect to participate in swap meets. Consider hosting one at your workplace if you are working in-person.
Of course, there are brick and mortar thrift stores you can always go to. Be sure to follow any pandemic safety guidelines when going out.
Basement and closet “shopping”
Chances are you’ve thrown more than one article of clothing into the deep, dark depths of your closet. Or if you have a basement, you’ve put things away there, never to be worn or used again. Basement and closet “shopping” can help you re-discover pieces, including the clothing and textiles you haven’t been using because you have genuinely forgotten about them. I recently wanted to buy a new bed in a bag, but first I checked my basement and found a beautiful, almost new comforter I previously used for my dorm room.
Window shopping is always a fun way to spend time! If you’re thinking of buying something non-urgent, wait for a period of a week and see if you can live without buying the item immediately.
Try incorporating thrifting into your life and see what benefits it brings. It’s definitely an easy way to inexpensively shop for certain things you need. And as we covered, there are a multitude of platforms to go through and scour for your new favorite item.