There are two main options when shopping for clothes: buying new or buying secondhand.
Both have pros and cons, and there are some super cute sustainable clothing brands out there, but when it comes down to it, shopping secondhand is the more sustainable option – and here’s why.
1. Shopping for secondhand clothes vs. new clothes removes some post-buy-button guilt
Secondhand shopping may be the answer for anyone who’s ever felt guilty after impulsively buying a new piece of clothing. Not only is it easier on your wallet, but it’s also better for the environment.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the textile industry is responsible for approximately 10% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. And much of this pollution comes from the growing and manufacturing of new textile fibers.
By shopping secondhand, you can help to reduce demand for new clothes and ultimately help to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, secondhand clothes are often just as good as new ones – sometimes even more well-made.
2. Buying new is terrible for the environment
While a new wardrobe may be tempting, buying new clothing is objectively bad for the environment.
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. This is because most clothes are made from synthetic fibers like polyester, derived from petroleum, and release microplastics into the environment when they’re washed.
In contrast, secondhand clothes require significantly less energy and resources to arrive at your door or be brought home from the thrift store. Not only that, but they don’t generate any new textile waste.
And because you’re shopping secondhand, you know that your purchase isn’t supporting fast fashion or contributing to wastefulness. Instead, you’re giving new life to an item that would otherwise be headed for the landfill.
Making small changes to how we shop for clothes can help reduce the fashion industry’s enormous environmental footprint.
3. The social benefits of shopping secondhand
Secondhand stores provide an affordable source of clothing for people on low incomes while also creating jobs in the community.
By supporting secondhand stores, we also help to normalize wearing used clothing and outfit repeating. While it may seem trivial, it’s a great idea to shop secondhand if possible because it helps reduce the stigma around wearing used clothes.
If you’re like, “what stigma?” then you’re my kind of people, but check this out – almost 50% of women stress about repeating outfits at work, and 1 in 6 people aged 18-25 won’t repeat an outfit if it’s been on social media.
Shopping for secondhand clothing and rewearing outfits allows you to establish a strong sense of personal style and helps fight the social stigma of outfit repeating.
In other words, buying secondhand is not only good for the environment but also for society.
4. New clothes are often made in sweatshops
Every year, millions of people around the world buy new clothes. Whether staying up with the latest fashion trends or simply replacing worn-out items, buying new clothes is a common practice.
However, few people stop to consider where their clothes come from. Clothes are often produced in sweatshops – factories that violate fundamental human rights and pay workers unfair wages. By purchasing secondhand clothes, you can avoid supporting these unethical practices.
5. Shopping secondhand saves you money
Why buy secondhand? According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person in America spends about $1,800 on clothes every year. (For women, this number is closer to $2000-$2500 depending on the source)
That’s a lot of money, especially considering the average household income is just over $63,000. So if you’re looking to save some cash, one of the best ways to do it is by shopping secondhand.
There are several reasons why shopping secondhand is a great way to save money. For starters, you can often find high-quality items for a fraction of the original price. In addition, secondhand stores typically have a much wider variety of items than traditional retail stores. This means you’re more likely to find something you love that fits your style.
6. It’s easier than ever to shop secondhand
Shopping secondhand used to mean combing through musty thrift stores in search of hidden treasures. But now, with a few clicks of a mouse, you can find virtually anything you’re looking for online – and it’s often cheaper than buying new.
Whether you’re looking for clothes, furniture, or electronics, dozens of websites specialize in secondhand goods. Here are some of my favorite places to score secondhand clothes online:
- Unclaimed Baggage
And thanks to the power of social media and search engines, it’s easy to find specific items or brands that you might be interested in. Just do a quick search for the brand, style, or item you’re looking for, and chances are, you’ll find a used item that fits the bill.
7. Shopping secondhand allows you to find unique pieces
There’s something special about secondhand shopping. Unlike department stores and online fast fashion sites where everything looks the same or goes out of style in months, secondhand shops are full of one-of-a-kind treasures. Each item has its history and story, and you never know what you’re going to find.
For example, you might stumble upon a vintage dress from the 1950s or a piece of furniture once owned by someone famous.
There’s nothing like picking up a Y2K velour tracksuit that is actually from the 90’s/2000’s and isn’t a Forever21 or DollsKill replica that’s much lower-quality and already all over social media.
You can find trendy, original clothing items that your friends, followers, and people you follow online probably don’t have and create an honestly unique wardrobe by shopping secondhand.
Shopping secondhand is more sustainable than shopping for new clothes. Buying used items reduces the demand for new clothing, which in turn decreases the number of resources needed to produce them.
In addition, buying secondhand helps fight unethical labor practices and saves you money. Finally, shopping secondhand allows you to find unique pieces not found at traditional retail stores.
Featured photo credit: Shannon Deans on Pexels. Thanks, Shannon!