In recent years, thrift shopping has gone way beyond yard sales and swap meets. Companies like Depop and ThreadUp have helped evolve thrifting from an in-person to online activity, connecting shoppers with thrift finds around the world. According to the 2020 Resale Report published by ThreadUp, the resale market will hit $64B in the next 5 years.
One of the reasons for this market trend is the sustainability of secondhand goods. When we buy previously owned stuff, we’re keeping products in circulation for longer - and out of landfills.
Clothing is one of the fastest-growing categories in landfills in the United States. A report published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicated that almost 24 billion pounds of clothes and shoes are discarded every year.
What’s the deal here?
Decades ago, consumers shopped for new clothes out of necessity: a new job, new school year, or a change in size. New school clothes were expected to last until we outgrew them, and almost every mom could expertly patch up holes or raise and lower hemlines.
The rise of fast fashion brands, like Zara and Urban Outfitters, shopping has become more about trends than quality. The design-to-production timeline is much quicker - to keep up with trends - but the clothing is made with cheap textiles by unskilled, underpaid personnel.
Climate Change & the Fashion Industry
An increase in landfill waste is not the only way the fashion industry has negatively impacted the environment. In 2018, Quantis performed a study looking at the entire value chain of apparel and footwear. They found that the production of apparel and footwear accounts for 8.1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
Additionally, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation published the following statistics:
➜ Every year the fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of
➜ Around 20 % of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric
dyeing and treatment.
➜ Of the total fiber input used for clothing, 87 % is incinerated or
disposed of in a landfill.
➜ Every year a half a million tons of plastic microfibers are
dumped into the ocean, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic
What about reselling or recycling?
Fast fashion brands produce cheap clothes, usually made with synthetic fibers, which are not worth very much in the resale market. Some recycling programs, like Blue Jeans Go Green, will only accept your used denim if it is comprised of at least 90% cotton. Take a look at the label on a new pair of jeans, especially if they have a little stretch, and you'll find a surprising percentage of synthetic fibers.
Sustainability & Thrift Shopping
From books to kitchenware to clothing, thrift shops give new life to abandoned things. Both fashion and home decor are cyclical, so what was once regarded as outdated is now trendy and eco-friendly.
As we mentioned earlier, thrifting helps keep clothes and other items in circulation and out of landfills. Not buying new also means you will:
♻️ Lower your carbon footprint
♻️ Save water
♻️ Reduce chemical pollution
The best part? You’ll also end up with some eclectic, one-of-a-kind gems for your closet or your home.
In the coming weeks, we'll dive into all things thrifting, including how to find the best hauls, our fave online thrift shops, where to donate your old clothes, and the social impact of thrifting. We’ll also welcome some very special guests to the Thrift Finds tribe.
In the meantime, take a peep at this thrift-inspired playlist curated by our lovely intern, @elysekenne.