ZU Magazine is a publication of ZU Media. The following is an article from Issue 5: Revolution.
Staff Writer | Jonah Minnihan
Calvin Coolidge, former president of United States, once said, “Industry, thrift and self-control are not sought because they create wealth, but because they create character.”
From Dr. Martens, Levi’s, vintage band tees and even designer streetwear, I have been able to find everything I want through the means of thrifting. Throughout the past few years, I have almost solely relied on second-hand stores for all of my shopping. It’s gotten to the point where most of my outfits are made up entirely of thrifted clothes and I have come to realize some great things about buying used.
Below are five reasons to buy used not only for your benefit but also for the world around you.
#1 Help decrease the environmental footprint of the textile industry
Between gas emissions, water waste and chemical dumping, the textile industry is one of the most wasteful industries in the world.
A report issued by the ClimateWorks Foundation estimates that the fashion industry contributes around eight percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Though it may feel like a small step towards cutting back on the waste that is created, it has to start somewhere.
In an article by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) titled, “Fixing the Fashion Industry,” Sarah Murray reflects upon journalist Linda Greer’s experience visiting textile factories in China.
“Many industries are guilty of using large amounts of water, but the problems with clothing production run particularly deep,” Greer said. “Not only are vast volumes required for scouring, dyeing, and rinsing, but all that water becomes loaded with dyes and nasty chemicals.”
These dyes and chemicals dumped by the textile factories find their way into the water systems in the surrounding areas. Murray also notes another shocking fact; one-ton of fabric used for making clothes takes around 200 tons of water.
According to a 2014 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, “40 of 50 state water managers expected shortages in some portion of their states under average conditions in the next 10 years.”
By supporting second-hand stores you can do your part in the important job of saving water. If more people begin to do this, it could greatly help efforts towards water conservation.
#2 You wouldn’t be funding Child Labor and Poor Working Conditions
It seems like every other week there is a news story about the next big retailer found employing child laborers.
The International Labour Organisation reports that around 168 million children, about 11 percent of the overall child population, are in an unfair working environment. It has become more of a problem now than ever before.
Companies are being pushed to find cheaper sources for labor, which often makes them desperate enough to “employ” children, bringing them in with the promise of decent wages. Some of these companies include H&M, Forever 21 and Nike; and although the latter has come very far in fixing this issue within their production, it is still happening and that’s not okay.
If you still can’t begin to drag yourself to your local Goodwill, take heed: you can find all the same brands you love at thrift stores, but you can buy them with a clear conscience knowing that you aren’t adding to the problem of child labor.
#3 Save that Money
I love shopping. It’s calming for me and it clears my mind. However, I don’t have the money to fund my hobby. That’s where thrifting comes in. I’m able to keep up my habit while not spending a year’s worth in tuition at large retail stores.
A 2010 report by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that the average American household spends around $1700 each year on apparel and other related items like footwear and services for their clothing (dry cleaning, tailoring, etc.). The average adult spends around $161 on these items per month.
Think about how much you could save if you relied more on second-hand stores.
Buffalo Exchange, a resale shop chain store, buys and sells gently used items at a discounted price. They mainly sell brand name items and unlike other thrift stores, won’t take every donation that comes in. I can tell you from experience that you can find a pair of Levi’s for $16 instead of $70, Converse for $20 instead of $80 and a Stussy hat for $8 instead of $35. Buffalo Exchange is a good transition store for those who don’t want to give up the brands they are used to wearing but want to start buying used.
Katie Wolk-Stanley has made it her life goal to buy everything used (excluding underwear and perishables). She records her experience on her blog, “The Non-Consumer Advocate.”
“I have decided to challenge myself with being part of ‘The Compact’… which is a movement of people all over the world who are choosing to think outside of the ‘big box’ and buy nothing new,” Wolk-Stanley said.
The lifestyle has benefitted her and she hopes to help others financially.
“I am also an advocate to help people learn to live on as little income as possible. Whether this means being able to sock away massive savings, or simply to have the freedom to work in a fulfilling but low paying job,” she said. “By making a choice to live this way, I have been able to work only part-time for years as a labor and delivery RN, even when my husband was in school full time.”
Wolk-Stanley’s blog has gained a following of around 400 and the attention of Time magazine as she continued to share her experience buying used.
#4 Give your money to a good cause
Instead of giving your hard-earned money to the rich folk who own the large retailers, give it to an organization of your choice.
Many second-hand stores sponsor a non-profit or an organization, and they donate a portion of their sales to helping others. Goodwill and Salvation Army, for example, support their local communities by holding job training classes, serving food and providing resources to help community members organize their finances.
“Out of the Closet,” a national thrift store chain, helps support those with HIV. Buffalo Exchange focuses on helping the environment, and Tagpop works “toward a more sustainable future” by recycling unused clothing.
According to the Tagpop website, “Americans donate or recycle less than 15 percent of clothing and shoes, though 95 percent of it could be recycled or reused, and the reuse of clothing and shoes is better for the environment than plastic and glass combined.”
In supporting thrift stores, you are not only supporting those stores but the community around them.
#5 Look fresh
The more you shop at second-hand stores, the more unique your closet becomes. When you shop at thrift stores for your clothes, it encourages you to become more creative about the way you dress. The switch from buying only at large retailers to buying at resale shops turns your clothing from a uniform to a one-of-a-kind outfit.
Hannah Sulak, a junior studying acting for the stage and screen and a passionate thrifter echoes this idea.
“I think that [shopping used] provides you with a much fiercer sense of individualism,” Sulak said. “It also enables you to have the confidence to say ‘I crafted this, I searched for this, this is my treasure and it’s something that I had an eye for.’”
Sulak loves the work that it takes to sift through the clothes and find the perfect piece to bring a whole outfit together.
By shopping used and avoiding large retail stores, you are not only doing yourself a favor by saving money and possibly giving yourself a confidence boost, but you are also doing your part in benefiting the community and the world around you.