Gone are the days when shopping for pre-owned clothing is stigmatized; thrift shops now outpace many traditional stores. According to Forbes Magazine, 64% of women are now open to buying used clothing and other items, up from 45% in 2016. Refreshing a summertime wardrobe with trendy second-hand clothing offers a climate-friendly and convenient alternative to buying new “fast fashion” items, where low price tags too often come with significant social and environmental costs.
Thrift shopping plays a key role in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” lexicon and is now easier than ever thanks to a growing number of user-friendly apps and platforms. With the click of a button, shoppers enter an online shop to peruse a seemingly endless selection of clothing items, ranging from Patagonia Worn Wear for outside adventures to high-end designer “certified” garments and “signs-of-use” labeled items priced for less than a dollar. Further streamlining the shopping process, customers typically enter the size, type, and acceptable condition of items they seek, and search specific price ranges and name brands if desired. New “used” items appear daily, so the selection constantly rotates, making each visit fresh and fun. Best of all, purchasing new (for you!) clothing – and selling used items – extends the lifecycle of these products and reduces buyers’ carbon, waste, and water footprints by displacing the need for new clothing production.
Environmental savings add up quickly, considering that producing a single t-shirt requires an estimated 2,720 liters of water and that 43 million tons of chemicals are used to dye and treat our clothes every year. Although a growing number of companies have committed to following sustainable sourcing and manufacturing practices, textile factories have a history of operating in countries without strict environmental regulations and with little oversight preventing the release of hazardous air and water pollution. In addition, textiles such as polyester and acrylic stem from petroleum-based materials that shed plastic microfibers throughout their production, use, and disposal. Textile microfibers comprise an estimated 35 percent of microplastics found in marine environments, so minimizing their production and use in new clothing plays an essential role in promoting environmental health.
The benefits of buying secondhand items add up quickly. The Thred Up “online consignment and thrift store” quantifies benefits by estimating and tracking each customer’s water, carbon dioxide, and energy savings over time. Environmental savings reflect the impact of buying a new item compared to purchasing secondhand clothing from the site. The information is not specific to individual items but refers to the average fabric composition and weight of a piece of clothing within a category.
In addition to their environmental benefits, online thrift stores take effort to put shoppers at ease. Like the majority of thrift sites, the online shop Mercari, directs customers to tap “Buy now” to make a purchase, “list and item” to sell something, or “Add to cart” to save and keep shopping. For checkout, follow the prompts to fill out billing and shipping information and complete the transaction like any other online purchase.
For those seeking high-end, designer goods, hundreds if not thousands of these items find their way to online thrift shops. Several platforms offer or even mandate professional third-party authentication of expensive designer clothing and accessories similar to the requirements at Mercari Authenticate. Poshmark, another high-end store, offers payment protection, so if an item doesn’t live up to expectations, the shopper may get a refund. The Poshmark app draws 70 million ‘Poshers’ and holds ‘Posh Party’ selling events. On several platforms, shoppers willing to work for a bargain may haggle a price with a push of the “offer” button. When an agreement is made, purchases are followed by an emailed receipt that includes the original listing price, the total amount paid, and any discounts applied from coupons, credits, or a shopper’s balance. Due to the remote nature of online thrifting, the majority of stores request and share seller ratings, which promotes transparency and helps hold sellers accountable for transaction quality. Payment methods include major credit cards, PayPal, and Apple Pay.
Fortunately, selling old clothes is also a breeze, and many platforms like Thred Up simply direct sellers to print a ‘Clean Out’ shipping label pre-addressed with the shop location – shipping is free of charge. Once items have been received and checked, platforms may pay sellers cash through PayPal or credit card, though some shops offer a greater reimbursement for those accepting payment as a store shopping credit. Taking the time to review the exact transaction terms of each company is recommended, especially for those selling expensive items. The process varies from shop to shop, and item to item. For instance, Poshmark takes a flat $2.95 fee for items under $15, but for goods over $15, the shop takes a 20% commission from sales, making it one of the more expensive selling platforms.
Jumpstart an eco-savvy habit this summer – look for second-hand goods to reduce personal carbon dioxide emissions, save water and support a healthier environment – it’s the thrifty way to shop!