Sorry about the delay in our second installment of our discussion about sustainable wardrobes and clothing. So as a quick recap, the first of this series was about taking care of your clothing, organizing what you have and mixing up your wardrobe. These steps help us get a feel for what we actually own, what wardrobe pieces we still need, how to selectively purchase new items, and how we can use our existing pieces with current trends. This second installment is focused on our first foray into the secondhand market! So let’s get this boat in the ocean!
1.) The fashion industry is the second dirtiest industry in the world next to petroleum production- Eileen Fisher
2.) Consignment Stores can be designer clothing havens. Google search consignment stores in your area and read their websites/reviews to get information about their products, standards, and product turnover.
3.) Search Facebook for local “Buy/Sell/Swap” pages. You can find A LOT of awesome garments for yourself and your kids there.
4.) Secondhand sales of durable goods are worth about $30 billion per year in Canada. – Peter Spiro
5.) Ask Grandma/Grandpa, Nana/Papa about their wardrobes and if they have any of their vintage pieces stowed away. I have some wonderful pieces in my wardrobe which are classics from relatives.
Okay, so for those of you who are sticking around, let’s get down to business. The rest of you, get back to work 😉
Shopping secondhand gets a bad rap. This is because discussions about the secondhand economy in the media paint it in a negative light and associating it with lower socioeconomic status (ie. only poor people shop secondhand.) This takes aim at fragile our egos (our perceived wealthiness, status and elitism) but if we think about it with a clear mind and realize that those narratives are told to us by the people who benefit financially from us buying new, we can look through the marketing and see a wonderful opportunity to lessen our consumerism and save some money.
So, let’s break it down a little and see what the secondhand economy actually is and why it is important for the environment.
– Americans threw away more than 67 lbs of clothing and textiles per person per year in 2007, increasing to 82 lbs in 2015, and over all a 400% increase in the past two decades.- Luz Claudio, True Cost
– Cotton agriculture accounts for 25% of the world insecticide use and 18% of the worlds pesticide use. –True Cost
Benefits of the Secondhand Economy
– 2.5 billion lbs of post-consumer textile waste was diverted from American waste streams by the secondhand economy and textile recycling in 2007. – Luz Claudio
– Secondhand sales of durable goods are worth about $30 billion per year in Canada and the average Canadian family saves $1150 by shopping secondhand. – Peter Spiro
I have a special insight into the inner-workings of the secondhand economy as a family member worked for a large Canadian charity for 15+ years and I grew up with a lot of experience within it. So how does the secondhand economy work? The answer is: it depends. There are A LOT of charity secondhand stores in my area which either receive their merchandise from direct donations. In contrast other companies purchase large quantities(like multiple shipping containers) of used clothing from various collection agencies. Other secondhand stores are consignment shops. These are my favorite.
Consignment stores often have strict rules and standards about the clothing they accept as the individual who is giving it to the shop is also receiving money for their garment. The shop and the consignmentee split the profit of selling the garment in some financial arrangement, which is why it makes sense for only the best products to be accepted for sale. Most often these garments are quality vintage pieces, on trend recent garments and/or are new with tags. I know one local shop I frequently haunt requires that all their pieces are dry cleaned prior to being placed for sale, which makes the store smell like fresh laundry, not musty. Side Note: My crowning achievement in shopping consignment was finding a pair of Rock and Republic jeans (this was before they were bought out by Kohl’s and their quality was great) with the tags still on ($179.99) for $25.00. Anyway, back to our discussion…
Where do these places exist you ask? Well you will have to Google your area for consignment shops. Read their websites to get better intel about the brands they sell, if they have a minimum price point, and if they are unisex or multi-generational (sell kids clothing)
I know of several great consignment stores in my area which are entirely for kids 10 and under. And this makes perfect sense! Kids grow out of things quickly (sometimes before they even wear them) so these items tend to not have a ton of wear and tear on them, and I know only clean, unstained pieces are usually accepted (ps. why do they even make white children’s clothing? That seems counterproductive….)
Goodwill and Thrift Shops:
Goodwill and Thrift Shops are also great places to shop, but be prepared to thumb through a few racks for a good find. I have a few pairs of jeans from thrift shops which were in what seemed like unworn shape. It is also worthy discussing that these shops are PERFECT for those one-off purchases you need for Halloween, themed parties, kids themed school days (anyone remember Sports Day? Some how I was always team Red, and I never owned anything red). These are awesome opportunities to buy something secondhand. Note: Most charity shops don’t wash their clothing before it goes for sale, so I always make sure to wash things immediately when I get home, but that rule should stand for everything you buy, new or used.
You’re already a secondhand Champion and you didn’t even know it
I bet many of you don’t know that you already participate in the secondhand economy, but you should because it means you’re already on your way to living more sustainably (Easiest change yet right?! Right!) But if you have ever bought or sold a used car, returned a leased car, sold that old TV on Craigslist, donated clothes to charity, gave or received hand-me-downs from a sibling,
bought a used treadmill off Kajiji or swapped some clothes with a girlfriend, you have already forayed into the secondhand economy. It was so easy, you didn’t even notice. But by making these kinds of choices consciously you can take your sustainability up a notch. So the next time you are looking for that next special outfit, head to your local consignment store, because there are a thousand other people out there who also want to switch up their wardrobes without breaking their banks.
Check back in a few weeks for our 3rd and last installment on sustainable wardrobes: buying new ethical and sustainably made garments. I will discuss my favorite stores (online and brick & mortar), how to shop smart ($) and which pieces to splurge on and which to save! Thanks for again for reading everyone!