Within the last few years, thrift shopping has been introduced into mainstream culture in a big way. Thrift shopping went from a necessary practice, to something viewed as trendy and cool. What once was an essential way for those with low income to find clothes, has become a trend to be marketed. And with trendy (and expensive) thrift shops and vintage stores now making a home on every major street, thrift shopping has become a popular way to stay trendy on the cheap. And with the success of chain thrift stores such as Uptown Cheapskate, Plato's Closet, and my personal favorite, Goodwill, it's an industry that is not likely to take a dip any time soon. In 2011 alone, Goodwill made $2.69 billion from more than 2,500 stores. It really gives a new meaning to the phrase "one man's trash is another man's treasure". But why is thrifting important? Here are a few pretty major reasons.
1. Environmental impact
It's no secret that the garment industry is one of the biggest contributors to human waste. The EPA estimates that the average person throws away seventy pounds of clothing per year, creating about 3.8 billion pounds of extra waste in our landfills globally. And while we do not yet have a shortage of landfills at the moment, our sheer amount of garbage is becoming a problem in many places around the United States. And with an ever growing population, that number is subject to rise within the coming years. One of the biggest contributors to this, is the fad of "fast fashion", a term that references the production of cheap - and cheaply made - clothing items. By producing these garments so cheaply, they are not built to last and are a massive contributor to our waste production. By thrift shopping and "upcycling", we reduce our waste, and allow ourselves to have the same gratification that is provided through purchasing fast fashions, at a much lower cost.
2. Human rights
Another casualty of the "fast fashion" epidemic, is those who are required to create the fashions for such low prices. There have been many scandals over the years over various clothing brands such as Gap, Old Navy, H&M, and many others. It's a simple (and legal) way to produce fashionable clothing for cheap and still make a profit. But these sweatshops are known for their horrible conditions, such as averaging at 14-16 hour workdays, often hiring children, and paying workers as low as one US penny per hour. These factories are a burden on the environment, and can be incredibly taxing on those who have no choice but to work there. While sweatshops are a massive contributor to the economy of the countries they reside in, there is no denying the violation of basic human rights that accompanies sweatshop labor. By purchasing from thrift shops, you do not contribute to the industry that perpetuates such unfair treatment of workers.
3. Stimulating local revenue and charity
Not all thrift shops are large chains, many of them are small mom and pop style shops that thrive off of revenue. Many are funded by churches, and others are purely for charity. A simple search for local thrift stores will provide you a comprehensive list of those shops around you, and what they do for their community. Some thrift stores double as art galleries, and some just pay homage to the past. Local thrift stores contribute to local economy, and help create jobs.
4. You get cute clothes for cheap
The biggest benefit for an individual when it comes to thrift shops, is that you get some incredibly cute clothes at some incredibly cheap prices. You can find clothes to fit every era, every taste, every body, and every budget. It's a way to buy clothing with a clear conscience, and to save money while looking cute. So instead of going to a mall or a department store, try thrifting instead.