Photo is a clothing rack full of women's clothes in different styles and shades of yellow.

Benefits of Shopping Second Hand | Why I Thrift First, Buy New Second

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Photo is a clothing rack full of women's clothes in different styles and shades of yellow.
Hey Guys!

Happy 2021! I want to start this year off by talking about one of my favorite things. Thrifting. But this time, I want to talk about the reasons to shop and the benefits of shopping second hand. 

I started browsing thrift stores about 10 years ago because I was curious about what I could find there. I would go on my own or sometimes I would go with a few friends from my job at the time. It was fun and exciting. But I never really thought about the true benefits of it. 

At the time I worked for Forever 21, a fast fashion brand that is notorious for being on top of the latest trends and constantly churning out thousands of new items regularly. I had no idea the impact this was having on our environment. And I didn’t fully educate myself until a few years ago. And the statistics I found were alarming. (More on that in just a bit.)

It really fueled my desire to consume less in all aspects of my life but mainly my shopping habits when it came to clothing. Not only was what I was doing contributing to the destruction of our environment, but it was draining my bank account. I was buying for the sake of buying when I could have been saving for much more important things. (My wedding, our future home, etc.) 

So after some time and after coming to this realization, I wanted to make a big change. 2 years ago I committed to always shop second hand first and to only buy new if I could not find what I needed. This I mostly applied to clothing but I also try to find items like home décor at the thrift store too. 

It was a little hard at first, especially if there was something I needed for a specific event and didn’t have much time to find it. But then I found myself buying things because they were cheap, whether I needed them or not.

Eventually I realized I didn’t need to buy things all the time. And over time I evolved even more to only buying things I truly loved and not just for the sake of a trend. And certainly not just because it was a good deal. And there are definitely things I only buy new such as under garments, socks, and bathing suits. 

Let’s talk about some of the main reasons I shop secondhand and some of the real benefits of shopping second hand. 

1. Fast fashion is bad for the environment and is filling our landfills. Shopping second hand saves resources, lessens pollution both air and water, and extends the life cycle of pieces of clothing.

The main reason for this post. Let’s talk about how badly fast fashion impacts our environment and how shopping second hand can help reduce that negative impact. This article from Scientific American is a great read and talks about the potential dent shopping second hand could have on the effort to reduce the negative impact fast fashion is having on our environment. The following are some facts I pulled from the article.

Landfills
This photo of a pile of clothes that have been thrown in a landfill is a great example of what we want to avoid. one of the benefits of shopping second hand is you are saving items from being thrown into landfills.

According to the latest available estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans alone threw away more than 21 billion pounds of clothing and other textiles into landfills in 2015. 21 BILLION pounds. In just America alone. That is horrifying. And a large increase from the 12.5 billion pounds tossed in 2000 and the 4.6 billion pounds tossed in 1980.

Water
Photo shows polluted water being dumped into a natural body of water. One of the benefits of shopping second hand is that you lessen the demand for new clothing to be produced and therefore less water pollution will occur.

In 2017,  the Journal of Cleaner Production conducted a study on life-cycle assessments on a cotton T-shirt, a pair of jeans and a polyester dress. It found a 75% savings in freshwater used for dyeing and other processes by quadrupling the average life span of these items.

So by buying items that already have been made and wearing them and repairing them instead of tossing them, we could potentially save 75% of that freshwater that would be used to produce new items. 

For reference, according to a 2017 report by Global Fashion Agenda, a nonprofit organization that encourages sustainable practices in the trade, the global fashion industry used some 21 trillion gallons of water in 2015 alone. 

And according to this article from the SERC (Student Environmental Resource Center) at UC Berkeley, it takes roughly 1,800 gallons of water to make one pair of blue jeans. So by buying jeans second hand and owning them for many years, you could potentially save 75% of that water or 1,350 gallons of water.

Pollution
Photo shows 3 smoke stacks releasing pollution into the air. One of the benefis of shopping second hand is that you lessen he demand for new clothing and can help to reduce the amount of pollution released from its production.

According to a report from Quantis, a consultancy that advises organizations on implementing environmental sustainability, the apparel and footwear sectors combined accounted for 8% of global carbon emissions in 2016.

And according to the article from the SERC at Berkeley, about 90% of the cotton grown for textiles is genetically modified. That means it is heavily reliant on pesticides and nearly 20% of pesticide use worldwide is for use on cotton plants. These chemicals contaminate nearby water supplies and acidify the soil. 

Additionally, the dyes used in the textile making process also pollute water supplies. A lot of the time this part of the clothing manufacturing process is outsourced to underdeveloped countries because it’s cheaper. In these underdeveloped countries, many times, environmental regulations are non existent or are rarely enforced. So they often dump these dyes directly into nearby rivers or lakes.

Then we have the pollution from the production of the synthetic fabric. According to the article from Berkeley,  60 percent of the clothes made worldwide are made from synthetic materials (e.g. polyester, nylon, acrylic) a.k.a. plastic. Nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is 310 times stronger than carbon dioxide, is what is released during the manufacturing of synthetic fabrics. And additionally, when thrown away, these synthetic materials often sit in landfills for hundreds of years, if not longer.

That’s not even the worst part of all of this, there are also the horrible ethical practices regarding human rights in many fast fashion companies which I have not even touched on in this article. That is a whole other beast. And a whole other reason to stop contributing to the horribleness that is fast fashion. 

Moving on to the next point which really goes hand in hand with this one.

2. Sustainability

Photo shows a woman dressed in all denim holding a plie of jeans,

By shopping second hand, you are buying an item that already exists. Thus cutting down on the use of resources such as water, the waste, and the pollution. You are not contributing to the demand for new clothing. Less demand means less production which in turn will help save precious resources and reduce the negative effect on our environment. 

Wear your clothes more, don’t be afraid to be an outfit repeater. Repair them or have them repaired before deciding to toss them. Consider donating them versus throwing them away. 

If you have clothes you never wear or are considering tossing, check out this post on how to repurpose your clothes and see them in a whole new way you might not have thought of.

3. Save money and help the community.

Saving money is something everyone enjoys. Buying things second hand is a great way to save money. Some stores might be more expensive than others, consignment shops for example, because they are often higher end items that they curate so you are paying for the convenience of not having to sift through all kinds of items to find a few hidden gems.

But if you are down for the thrill of the hunt then hit up your favorite thrift shops. They often benefit a charity or the community so you are contributing to that instead of the pockets of the big fast fashion companies. That’s something I will proudly contribute to. 

4. It gives you the ability to try new styles.

Photo shows assorted women's tops on hangers in teal, white, and black with varying materials and designs.

If you love keeping up with trends, this is a great way to try new styles that you wouldn’t necessarily try if you had to spend the money to buy them new. 

Yes, some might argue that shopping trends is not the most sustainable thing to do, even shopping second hand, because you are buying things to wear only for the period of time they are “in.” I totally get that perspective and I don’t disagree.

But there are so many people who enjoy expressing themselves through fashion but might not want to or are unable to spend money on something they want to experiment with. That’s where buying it used is a great option. 

You can always re-donate them, pass them along to someone else who loves it, or keep it until the trend comes back around. Because trends repeat themselves. No need to remove all the fun that is fashion.

5. You can find rare or unique pieces.

Photo shows a white blouse with lace detailing hanging on a white hanger being held by a hand wearing a pink glove against a lavender wall.

This might be one of my favorite things about thrift shopping. Vintage pieces, rare pieces, and super unique pieces that you can find and make your wardrobe truly your own. You just can’t beat high quality, unique articles of clothing at thrift store price points. 

I love wearing one of my thrifted items and having someone ask me about it. Especially if it is something I altered in some way to truly make it my own. It’s cool to hear people say “wow that’s from a thrift store?!” 

6. It’s fun and exciting.

Going hand in hand with the last point, you never know what you will find and that is the thrill of thrift shopping. There is a very specific feeling I experience whenever I am having a good thrifting trip.

I don’t know how else to describe it other than, kind of like a high. Not like the drug induced kind, but more like the kind you experience at an amusement park or somewhere similar that is a happy and exciting experience. 

I walk away feeling thrilled with my finds and just extreme happiness. And I already can’t wait for my next trip. It’s a great feeling. Talk about some retail therapy. Feeling down? Don’t head to the mall, head to the thrift store!

7. You can own high quality, designer pieces for a fraction of the cost.

There is little more that excites me than spotting a high end or even designer label in an item that looks barely worn. I will even settle for a gently used item because I know the quality is there and it still has plenty of wear left in it.

One of my best finds was an Alice + Olivia silk and lace camisole which retailed for $285 and I picked it up for $3.50. It was in amazing condition, check it out in this thrift haul post. I also found a T by Alexander Wang top that trip which retailed for $250 and I got it for $6.99. 

So that just goes to show you, there are some amazing pieces to be found. 

I also love finding great quality wardrobe staples like jeans, sweaters, basics, and jackets second hand. I have found some of my very favorite pairs of jeans second hand. Including a pair of white Ralph Lauren jeans you can see in this post which I got for $9.99.

8. You can find new with tag, never worn items.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found items that were never worn and had their original price tag still on them. People buy things that they don’t need or don’t really love and then they sit in their closet until they finally decide to get rid of it and donate it. 

It happens all the time. Why not benefit from it? And save it from the landfill? I can honestly say that nearly every time I’ve been thrift shopping I have spotted something with its original price tag on it. I didn’t always buy it obviously. But I have definitely seen it lots of times. 

You get brand new items for a fraction of the cost. It’s a win win. 

Give it a try!

As you can see, there are plenty of benefits of shopping second hand. Some benefit the world and some benefit yourself. These are my reasons for choosing to shop second hand first, I encourage you to give it a try, if you don’t already! 

Check out my thrifting tips and tricks post which is full of my secrets to thrifting like a pro and get thrifting! See you next time.

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