Good Will Shopping

PC: Ann + Rob

Each year Americans collectively throw out 13 million tons of clothing and other textiles. Given that there are approximately 323.1 million people living in the United States, the average individual throws out over 80 pounds of textiles a year. The unfortunate reality is that most these items end up in one of the world’s ever-growing landfills.

But that doesn’t have to be the case because there over 25,000 resale and consignment shops in the U.S. Most of these stores will buy merchandise from individuals cleaning out their closets and resell them for a profit. However, these types of businesses are usually a little picky with what they curate. Stores like Goodwill, on the other hand, accept almost anything donated to them and then resell it. Goodwill provides job employment and other professional development programs as well as helps the environment through its business model.

Ethical brands like Eileen Fisher and People Tree are often less attractive to the general consumer because their products are more expensive. What most people don’t realize is that this is because they pay their workers fair wages and use better quality materials. Unfortunately though, the expense can make ethical fashion less attainable for many consumers. Shopping at consignment stores is a great way to promote ethical shopping on a budget.

When you buy a shirt at a consignment store you save that shirt from ending up in a landfill. Additionally, you gain a new shirt without forcing a new one to be made or supporting a fast fashion brand. In fact, even if Forever 21 or a similar brand originally made and sold that shirt, you are not supporting them with your purchase. Instead, you are supporting the consignment store from which you bought it and encouraging it and the rest of the consignment industry to keep doing what it’s doing. From my perspective, it’s a win-win situation.

One of the goals of the ethical fashion movement is to slow down the consumption cycle. It is estimated that the world now consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing a year—a 400% increase from 20 years ago. This rapid consumption fuels the fast fashion industry and promotes wastefulness. By slowing down our world’s rate of consumption we can potentially force fast fashion brands to change their way of doing business. Obviously, we can do this by buying better-made, better-quality clothing that we will wear for a long time, but we can also do this by recycling and sharing clothing.

I like to think of consignment shopping as a form of recycling. A piece of clothing starts as something with someone and then ends up as something completely different to someone else. This process works effectively to slow down an entire community’s rate of consumption just by reselling and sharing.

Not yet convinced? Last year I found a Hervé Léger banded sheath dress for $35 at my local consignment shop (retails for around $1,500). This is just one example of the treasures you can find consignment shopping thanks to recycling and sharing. Happy shopping!

-Kate Hornberger

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