Fast fashion is a recent buzzword that comes up often when discussing the environment. But essentially it is inexpensive clothing that is mass produced and designed to only last you one or two seasons before falling apart. Think of shopping at a mall and you'll get the idea of what is meant by fast fashion.
Fast fashion is detrimental to the environment because it produces clothing that will end up in a landfill within a few years as people continue to repurchase new replacement items. One huge thing you can do to help our planet is cut out fast fashion from your lifestyle. For many of us, thrifting is the most accessible way to do this. However, there is a downside to thrifting and its recent popularity. Thrifting can hurt poor communities who rely on thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army for all of their clothing.
There are many people who's only option is Goodwill because they simply cannot afford clothes from other stores. While it's great to see so many people thrift shopping for the planet, this is hurting poor communities because it drives prices higher at Goodwill and it means there are less options for them.
I've personally struggled with this concept because I want to be able to thrift responsibly to save the environment, but also without hurting my local communities who rely on Goodwill. Is it even possible to do both?
Through my research and from looking for creative solutions I've found several key ways to find a balance between the two. Keep in mind, these tips are direct towards anyone who has the means to shop elsewhere for clothing or could afford to buy items first hand, but want to shop secondhand for the environmental impacts.
The first thing is if you can afford to buy yourself high quality long lasting items such as a new winter coat or business professional interview clothing, do not go to Goodwill. You would be taking away someone's only option of a winter coat, or someone who is unemployed and needs a low-cost suit for a job interview. Items like these, when bought in good quality can last you a lifetime. Use the opportunity to splurge on yourself for these pieces and bonus points if you can find something made sustainably as well.
If you are dead set on buying secondhand high quality try thinking creatively. For example, the REI near me had an end of year garage sale where they were reselling items other customers had returned for a heavily discounted rate. In order to get into the sale you had to be an REI member (it costs $20 for a lifetime membership). I was in desperate need of a thick winter coat (have I mentioned that I moved from Florida to Philly recently) so I went to the garage sale and found the perfect winter coat for myself. It was over 50% off just because someone had worn it once, didn't like the fit and returned it. And because it was something you had to be an REI member to buy, I didn't feel like I was taking away someone's only option for a winter coat.
Other options for buying second hand without hurting your local community are finding stores like Plato's Closet, local consignment stores, or even look to online secondhand retailers like eBay, ThredUp, and Poshmark. These are all places where you'll find second hand items and at a discounted rate, but not as cheap or accessible enough to be someone's only clothing option.
Another thing you want to avoid when thrifting is to not buy things that are a few sizes too big with the intent of cutting them or sizing them down. The options are already very limited when it comes to their selection of plus-size clothing secondhand so buying something to cut into your size reduces the options of plus-sized shoppers even more.
Now this doesn't mean that you can never shop at a place like Goodwill. These are just things to be conscious of when you do go thrift shopping. Yes, we all love getting a great deal, but if we thrift responsibly we can help the environment without hurting poor communities.
How have you been able to find the balance between buying second hand for the environment but not taking away cheaper options from those who need them most?
Join me as I document my journey to becoming zero-waste through this blog as a resource to others.