12 months, 12 goals: shop secondhand

secondhand shopping

“…thrifting is also the moral choice in a ‘fast fashion’ consumer culture that strips the earth of resources and people of their dignity to meet our insatiable demand for more. It’s time that we take responsibility for our purchasing power. It’s time that we’re made aware of how our weekend hauls at the mall impact and exploit workers at the foundation of the retail chain (from my article for Relevant Magazine, Why I Buy Secondhand).”

When I published my article for Relevant online last May, I was convinced that thrifting was the absolute best alternative to fast fashion retail shopping. Thanks to thought provoking comments and conversations since then, I realize it has its downsides. For one, we can’t simply stop producing new garments, because this jeopardizes the livelihoods of milllions of individuals who work in the clothing industry. In the long term, it also thwarts creativity and innovation. But I do think we could stand to downsize the industry altogether.

Those arguments aside, there’s no doubt that thrift shopping is a positive endeavor. When I buy something from my local thrift, I save money, recycle, give money back to my community, and avoid increasing demand for unethically produced garments.

thrift haul

On a recent trip to Goodwill, I bought a sweater, J. Crew top, lace crop top, and two striped shirts for a total of $15.00. Had I purchased these new, I likely would have spent over $100.00. I also would have implicitly contributed to unsafe cotton farming practices, depressed factory wages, and unethical sales practices (see my post on retail theater).

Secondhand shopping is the easiest, most immediately effective way to redirect one’s spending, but it’s not the end all, be all of the fair trade lifestyle. I see it as the foundation of ethical spending, which is why I placed it at the beginning of my 12 Months, 12 Goals challenge.

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About Leah

Leah Wise is a member of FIRE in Charlottesville, Virginia.
This entry was posted in Essays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 12 months, 12 goals: shop secondhand

  1. Sonya Mann says:

    Agreed. And to be honest, I don’t have the funds to shop any other way. I would like to purchase more ethically manufactured goods, but the cost is often prohibitive.

    • leahwise says:

      I spoke with a group of people about the cost of fair trade goods and they pointed out that if we aim to buy less overall, the comparatively high price of fair trade goods is helpful (because it restricts us from buying a lot of things we don’t need). It seems that fair trade and thrifting were made for each other, though. If I buy one or two fair trade items, I can supplement them with thrifting and it’s all good.

  2. Pingback: 12 months, 12 goals | Style Wise

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