Opinion: Thrifting isn’t always sustainable

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Anna Wilkinson

The pictures above are the logos of a few of the surplus amount of thrift stores around the globe.

$59.28.

I refreshed my phone. The bolded number remained in its spot.

Isn’t this supposed to be an online thrift store? I thought to myself. The price of one jacket was almost $60. My perplexity grew as I remembered that I had the very same jacket in my closet. I searched for a price, but there was no such luck. I continued my search by scrolling through my bank account until I found the amount I had paid. $13.18 for the same periwinkle jacket.

Astonished, I scrolled through more of the online store and saw that the prices were consistently higher than what someone would typically pay for the same item.

Sunglasses I had as a six-year-old were suddenly being labeled as “y2k” and “vintage,” so companies can accumulate higher prices by marketing these items as valuable or trendy. Because of inflation – the purchasing power of a given currency over time – and fluctuating prices due to changes in supply and demand, prices of apparel are at an all-time high.

Even as people are becoming more sustainable, the average American still generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year. That adds up to more than 11 million tons of textile waste from the U.S. alone. Not only does the amount of waste a company produces affect where we choose to shop, but so does whether the company uses fast fashion, sustainable packaging, animal testing, etc., also plays a huge role. All these factors together eliminate the number of truly eco-friendly stores. 

Then there is what seems like the golden option, thrift shopping.

There is no packaging, it is secondhand, reduces the chemical pollution induced by creating and buying new clothes, and less cotton production. Perfect, right?

Leila Farhi, a junior, calls attention to the very reasons why this is flawed. While it is important to be conscious of where you shop, thrift shopping isn’t always the best choice for everyone.

“For years, I’d shopped at thrift stores because they were accessible and cheap enough for me. Every year I would buy virtually all my clothes from thrift stores. Now you walk in, and they’ve bumped up the prices. Essentials and cute statement pieces are gone, or insufficient stock, and then you see rich people buying these essentials,” Farhi said.

While secondhand shopping is a preferred eco-friendly way to shop, Farhi offers another way to keep the environmental benefits of thrifting without the negative connotations, upcycling. 

Upcycling is the reuse of materials to create new clothing items for yourself. When one of your old shirts is no longer in style, you can sew it into a bag or a new trendier top. Learning to sew may be difficult for many, so hand-me-downs are also a great option.

“I just want to reiterate that thrifting should be for everyone, but if that someone who isn’t lower-income or a Black/Brown POC, they should be mindful of how what they are thrifting affects those around them,” Farhi said.

Thrifting may be accessible and cheap for you, but for low-income families, it is the only way they can obtain essential items.

To find a full list of brands to avoid and why, click here.

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