Why I shop at thrift stores first. I made a commitment to myself when I moved back in June last year that I would only buy clothing secondhand. If I did buy anything new, it would be only after I couldn’t find it secondhand in thrift shops or on Depop.
On average, we as consumers throw away 60 percent of our clothes within the first year. In 2020, it was estimated that around 18.6 million tonnes of clothing ended up in landfill.
In Australia, where we are the second highest consumers of textiles per capita in the world (after the U.S.), the fast fashion sector grew by 19.5 percent over five years to $AUS1. 8 billion in 2017-18.
The clothing industry accounts for 10 percent of global carbon emissions, and nearly 20 percent of wastewater. These greenhouse gases are generated from the energy used during global fashion production, manufacturing, and transportation of the millions of garments sold worldwide each year.
The Environmental Impacts Behind the Fashion Industry
Textile dyes are the world’s second-largest polluter of water, and the pesticides widely used in cotton farming contaminate soil and groundwater. With inadequate environmental precautions put in place, these chemicals can leak into waterways and pose massive risks to the health of farmers and workers, and surrounding communities.
What’s more, retailers have been able to drive down clothing prices, while overall costs for retail goods has continued to creep higher and higher. While consumer demand for this cheap clothing is high, with these cheap clothes comes unethical practices: workers are hugely underpaid and often sourced overseas for cheap labour, working conditions are often horrible and the quality of clothing produced is often poor to account for cheap prices. This means that those $5 t-shirts we buy don’t last very long, so are thrown out quite quickly and replaced with more cheap but poor quality items.
On average, each Australian consumes around 27kg of new clothing per year and throws away an average of 23kg of clothing to landfill each year. In Australia alone, more than 500,000 tonnes of textiles and leather end up in landfill each year. Low-cost, low-quality garments mean we’re buying and disposing more clothing than ever.
Approximately 70 percent of all our clothing is made from plastic, and 70 percent of plastic microfibres that end up in the ocean are coming from clothing.
These are one of the main reasons as to why I started and continue to op shop first.
Why I Choose to Thrift
I like the idea of giving something a second life. I’ve even started buying a lot of my cooking equipment and supplies from thrift shops, such as glass bottles and jars to store my dry ingredients and homemade plant milks in. Plus, op shopping saves me a ton of money, and I often find really good brands for a really cheap price.
This past year alone I’ve bought:
- Secondhand I Love Billy sneakers for AUD$8.00, that would usually cost around $80.00 new
- A denim jacket for AUD$6.00 that, when bought in store or online, are priced anywhere between $60-$110 new, even on Depop they go from anywhere between $15-$30 secondhand
- A straw beach hat for AUD$2.00 (often priced at $20.00 new)
- Exercise shorts by the brand Champion for AUD$5.00 priced at $30.00 new
- A white summer dress from the brand Dotti for AUD$6.00, priced at around $40.00 new
And so much more.
Institutes like the Savory network are supporting clothing brands such as Patagonia and Eileen Fisher, who seek to buy their raw materials from sustainable-farming operations. This will become more and more common as we see brands shift away from fast fashion, creating more potential for natural products sourced from regenerative farming enterprises to come forth, but this potential will only be captured if natural fibres win out over vegan synthetics. If they replace real leather and natural fibres with plastic-based products, that creates further impact on the environment and contributes to the ever increasing issue of plastic pollution that we currently face.
Op Shopping can be Limiting…
Op shopping can be more limiting in the items and sizing of clothing available, and can take a few trips to find specific items you need as you can only pick from what they have in stock at the time. When this happens I look on Depop as you can type in exactly what you’re looking for and find a wider range of items to choose from. However, I’m someone who doesn’t mind browsing through thrift shops on my way somewhere, and sometimes I’ll stumble across a really great item this way.
Overall I try to live as minimalistic as possible, and only buy items I really need to prevent me throwing out more later on once my clothing has completely worn out. Once my clothing has reached the end of its life, I try and donate as much as I possible that can actually be worn again, but for the items that aren’t salvageable, I look for recycling programs for particular items, like joggers, flip flops and things like that.
Charity shops will always welcome items in good condition. To make sure they are good enough for donation, follow the golden rule of only donating items that you would give to friends or family, as this will ensure they’re in good enough condition for donating. If not, don’t donate them.
Both H&M and Zara offer a collection recycling service for unwanted clothes — of any brand and in any condition — at all their Australian stores. Any clothing sent in that is in good condition is reused and sold by charities. Clothing and textiles that are in poor condition are either recycled into cleaning rags or sent to a fabric fibre recycler to create new fabrics and products such as insulation for cars and the construction industry.
My experience of op shopping
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post.
Tell me your op shop finds. What’s your favourite thrift store? Share in the comments below.
Lots of love,
Clothing textiles waste. (Accessed: 19 January 2022). Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. Retrieved from https://www.awe.gov.au/environment/protection/waste/product-stewardship/textile-waste-roundtable
The Australians putting the brakes on fast fashion, fearing for environment. (22 August 2018). SBS News. Retrieved from https://www.sbs.com.au/news/the-australians-putting-the-brakes-on-fast-fashion-fearing-for-environment/d9a18aee-38c9-408d-be39-1bd96591efb7
Young, Elewisa. (August 2020). Fashion Waste Is Rubbish – Yes, But This Is Not The Issue. Fibre2Fashion. Retrieved from https://www.fibre2fashion.com/industry-article/8736/fashion-waste-is-rubbish-yes-but-this-is-not-the-issue
Fast fashion: Rivers turning blue and 500,000 tonnes in landfill. (Updated: 29 March 2017). ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-28/the-price-of-fast-fashion-rivers-turn-blue-tonnes-in-landfill/8389156
The Impact of Fast Fashion on the Retail Industry. (Accessed: 19 January 2022). Buxton. Retrieved from https://www.buxtonco.com/blog/the-impact-of-fast-fashion-on-the-retail-industry
Md. Aktar, Wasim; Sengupta, Dwaipayan; and Chowdhury, Ashim. (March 2009). Impact of pesticides use in agriculture: their benefits and hazards. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2984095/
Putting the brakes on fast fashion. (Updated: 28 June 2021). UN Environment Programme. Retrieved from https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/putting-brakes-fast-fashion
Ro, Christine. (March 11, 2020). Can fashion ever be sustainable?. BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200310-sustainable-fashion-how-to-buy-clothes-good-for-the-climate