“…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.
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.