The common misconception that “going eco” or buying sustainably will break the bank can be disproved with just one word: thrifting. Thrifting is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to be a part of the sustainable fashion movement. Not only is it less costly, but it provides the opportunity to search for new and old trends, and even learn about fashion from decades past. Imagine a movie montage, where you’re trying on clothes with friends and each look has endless possibilities. Well, this can happen. You can look good, have fun and be eco-friendly without the pricey tags. 

Thrifting helps lessen fashion’s footprint in several ways, the most obvious of which revolves around landfills. Americans throw away 10.5 million tons of clothing every year, which end up in landfills. But it wasn’t always like this. Buying clothes used to be a major investment. In the 1950s, Americans spent a whopping ten percent of their income on clothes. But with fast fashion and the explosion of social media, having as many looks as possible has become mainstream for many. The more, the merrier, right? Not in this case. Studies have shown that 60 percent of clothing made worldwide is created using synthetic materials. This means plastics are sitting in landfills for hundreds of years. The more we can do to decrease the number of textiles reaching landfills, the better for the planet. 

Buying new clothes also has an impact on the availability of resources. In fact, it takes up to 2,700 liters (713 gallons) of water to grow enough cotton to make just one t-shirt. After oil, water might be the next hottest commodity in the global economy. Climate scientists claim water availability could result in “water wars” in the future — a scary thought exasperated by the reality of climate change. Buying secondhand clothes eliminates the need for exhausting already limited resources. And fewer resources being used means less pollution — score!

We’ve gathered some tips for you to think about when heading out on your next thrifting adventure. 

  1. Gather your pals: Make a list of what everyone needs and go in with a mission. It’s easy to see inexpensive items and go a little crazy, but remember you’re there to get what you need, not necessarily anything and everything you want. Consider setting limits with a budget. 
  2. Remember what you already have: Take some time to see what trends are currently in your closet. Ask yourself if you’re going for a similar look or changing it up completely.
  3. Look for damage: It’s inevitable that some of the clothes you find at a thrift shop will not be in the best condition. Though some may be beyond repair, if there is a piece that you adore with a button missing, a fabric snag, a rip, etc., consider fixing this imperfection yourself. After all, what better way to give clothes a second chance than by bringing them back to life with your own two hands? If you’ve ever wondered if the sewing and DIY community is for you, check out our article on taking the first steps here.

Becoming a thrifter has increased in popularity. Young people, in particular, are making the most impact. In 2017, 40 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds shopped resale. In the U.S. alone, there are over 25,000 consignment, resale, and not-for-profit thrift shops that can be explored. With more and more consumers becoming aware of the social and environmental impacts of the fashion industry and intense consumerism in general, the rise in secondhand shopping continues to grow. According to THREDUP, 77 percent of millennials prefer to buy from environmentally conscious brands. 

Shopping responsibly can make a world of difference. Doing your part to extend your clothing’s life does contribute to a shift in the fashion industry. It’s an added bonus that making the shift to thrift can become a new hobby and save you some definite cash. What’s more, that feeling you get when you find a piece that really speaks to you and you know you can give it some more love — that is priceless.