By Sydney Morgan, Youth Advisory Member 2020-2021
A new eco-friendly habit I picked up during the ‘quarantine’ period of 2020 is thrift shopping. It’s a great way to save the planet (in a nutshell), find unique items that stand out from the crowd, and maybe even save a little bit of money (with the exception of some vintage pieces) in the process!
The biggest benefit to me is that it’s a better way of shopping when it comes to the planet. The fashion industry as a whole has a lot of impacts on the environment and it varies by which materials are being used. According to vettacapsule.com, materials derived from natural sources (linen, cotton, hemp) are much more sustainable than those derived from man-made materials like petroleum (think polyester, spandex, nylon). However, man-made materials use less water than natural materials. So how can we conserve water sources, be kind to the planet, and look good all at the same time? Easy. Shop second hand.
Although large corporations and retailers are to blame, if we the consumers stop creating a demand for products with large impacts on the environment, they will be forced to change their ways.Sydney Morgan
Some clothing items are just more effective when made from man-made materials – think a rain jacket. My rain jacket is made from mostly polyester and nylon. In this case, buying second hand reduces the impact, since there is no need to create new materials. High quality brands like The North Face and Patagonia generally last for a long time (and use recycled materials) so are good options to buy second hand. A great Canadian brand to buy used or to support is MEC – they use recycled plastics to produce their polyester. Recycling plastics helps cut down on using fossil fuels, which produce greenhouse gases.
Quantis, a sustainability solutions organization, has concluded that the fashion and footwear industries are responsible for approximately 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. According to canada.ca, greenhouse gases are the leading cause of climate change. Although large corporations and retailers are to blame, if we the consumers stop creating a demand for products with large impacts on the environment, they will be forced to change their ways. That’s why thrift shopping is a way for me (and hopefully you, too) to do my part in the fight against global warming.
When it comes to the fashion industries’ impact on water, unfortunately it is very harmful. In this report about the effects of growing cotton on water sources by WWF, they say that “The total quantity of pesticides used, in almost all cases, gets into either groundwater or surface water bodies.” The report also says that the pesticides used to grow cotton that contaminate water in turn have a negative impact on water ecosystems and the insecticides used to grow cotton can cause mortality in wildlife. It almost seems crazy that we wear this stuff on our skin after all is said and done!
Another huge benefit to thrift shopping (besides being eco-friendly) is that most stores only carry items that are considered in style. If I want clothes that are not considered in style, or very trendy clothes that fast fashion and retailers haven’t caught up to yet, thrifting is absolutely the way to go. Everything comes back in style right? For example, I hate wearing skirts but really loved the denim skirt trend. So I found a vintage denim ‘skort’… which is a denim skirt with shorts inside! You won’t find one of those at the mall these days! One day I got lucky and found a top I had really wanted while it was ‘in season’ but was sold out on the retailers website. I’ve been doing my best to buy pieces that are versatile but also high-quality so I can wear them in a lot of different settings, and I know they will last for years to come. This way I don’t have to replace them all the time, like I used to do when I was buying a lot of fast fashion like Urban Planet, Garage, Forever 21, etc.
When it comes to thrift shopping in a pandemic, though, I found it easiest to shop online. Most of my recent pieces were found on an app called depop. You can thrift right now, from whatever you’re reading this from! It’s so much easier than real life shopping: you search for what you need and you can find Canadian sellers carrying them. The app is very easy to use and carries a variety of brands, such as Patagonia, the North Face, Nike, FILA, the list goes on. A lot of the items on the app still have tags on or were only used once or twice; everything I purchased from depop was in great condition, even the vintage pieces!
TIP: Most sellers on the app offer a discount when you buy more than one item, and almost everyone I asked was flexible on price otherwise!
The only downside to this is the shipping; however if you can manage to find somebody local on the app, you can meet up/pick up or have the item delivered to you by the seller. You can also check the ‘store policy’ of the person you are buying from to ensure they offer eco-friendly packaging. I was fortunate enough to find somebody here in my city selling really cute clothes and bought a few pieces from them! Because we’re in a pandemic, I paid the seller extra to drop off the items in my mailbox – contact free! Of course, a lot of sellers sanitize/wash the items before shipping and I recommend always washing clothing or accessories (second hand or new) before wearing or using them.
If we all thought harder about the resources we were using up, it would be so much easier for people to understand. When we work for something, we value it more- when someone else does the work for us, it is easy to take it all for granted: the resources used, the time and work put in.Sydney Morgan
THRIFT SHOPPING IN A PANDEMIC
If you do decide to go out shopping during this time, I would highly recommend wearing a reusable fabric mask. Here in my city, Sudbury, Ontario, masks are mandatory in every establishment where social distancing is not possible. Because you are looking through and touching clothing that other people are touching as well, I also recommend bringing a few pairs of gloves, especially seeing as the items are pre-loved. Keep some sanitizer on your person and wash those hands whenever you go out! Keep the pieces in a reusable (maybe canvas) bag that way you can throw all of it directly into the washing machine, along with the bag, when you get home.
Otherwise, find a locally-owned thrift store in your area so you can support local business, and save on the costs (and effects!) of shipping. Shipping has a large carbon footprint. Supporting a small business never hurts either, and if you can purchase from a charity shop, your purchase is a direct donation to a good cause all while you shop second hand and locally for the benefit of the planet. That’s a win-win-win if you ask me!
I hope my experience inspires you to rethink the way you buy clothing, and to try something new and give thrift shopping a chance! Luckily these days it is incredibly easy to do with apps like depop and Poshmark. You can even search places like Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace if you’re looking to add a specific piece to your wardrobe. If we all thought harder about the resources we were using up, it would be so much easier for people to understand. When we work for something, we value it more- when someone else does the work for us, it is easy to take it all for granted: the resources used, the time and work put in. However you decide to thrift, now you can buy clothes that not only look good, but you can feel good about them too!
Links to download depop on for Apple and Android phones: