By Isabel Coleman
I have a passion for thrifting.
This passion stems from 3 distinct factors; I love fashion, I care about the environment, and I stand against fast fashion and hyperconsumerism. Thrifting offers an alternative to poor quality, single-use clothing from brands such as Shein, Zaful and Misguided, subsequently lowering one’s ecological footprint and having a positive impact on society.
It’s a challenging thing to do, to research every brand and ensure that they are ethical. Staying committed to shopping at companies that are ethical and sustainable becomes increasingly difficult when they sell clothing at such an increased price. In the past, I have given in to temptingly low prices, buying a $10 top from H&M without knowing anything about the company or how their clothes are manufactured. That same top I bought ended up sitting in my closet unworn for over a year. Many consumers struggle with this same dilemma; impulsively buying fast fashion to keep up with style trends. This is the mentality that the world has achieved in regard to fashion. In North America, we produce 400% more clothes than we did 20 years ago, only to wear each item around 7 times. I constantly see Shein hauls all over my TikTok page, with people buying over 50 items for $5 each because the items are trending that month. Brands such as Shein release around 52 micro collections each year, enticing consumers to buy more with their cheap prices.
It makes you wonder, how is it possible to make clothing for such a little price?
Mistreatment of workers. Poor working conditions. Minimal to no payment. Cheaply manufactured clothing. These are some of the consequences of supporting unsustainable and unethical clothing companies that sell items for the same price as a Big Mac. Children and mothers in third world countries suffer immensely as a result of major clothing manufacturers. Take the devastating collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013 for example. A child goes to work to find their mother trapped under a collapsed building where she spent hours sewing for less than 50 cents an hour. A child grows up without their mother because a teenage girl needed a new shirt for a party. This is the unfortunate reality of fast fashion. I refuse to support this reality any more. I have transitioned to thrifting and encourage others to make the same sustainable and ethical choices I have. Lucy Sigele, author and journalist, summarizes this idea, stating that “fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere else is paying”.
For the longest time there was a stigma around buying clothes second hand, this has thankfully diminished throughout the years as thrifting has grown in popularity. Many people in the newer generations view thrifting, consignment shops and other second-hand stores as another way to reduce their ecological footprint and positively impact society. Thrifting has 3 major influences on our environment as it reduces clothing in landfills, wasted resources, and pollution. Look into your closet and find any t-shirt. That t-shirt is most likely made of cotton and other synthetic fibres. That one shirt uses around 2700 litres of water to make, is responsible for 15kg of Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) emissions and can last over 100 years in a landfill. If everyone purchased one used item rather than a new item this year it would reduce CO₂ emissions by 5.7 billion pounds, save 25 billion gallons of water, and prevent 449 million pounds of waste from entering landfills. Thrifting is not yet as trendy as using reusable straws and bags, therefore it needs to gain popularity if we are to have a positive impact on our environment.
In consideration of all of the negative impacts of fast fashion I decided to take action and fight against the fashion industry's wrongdoings. Not too long ago, I visited my local Value Village and found a Topshop dress for $5, an unworn Zara turtleneck for $7 and the perfect pair of vintage mom jeans for $10. Although I loved so many items, none of them were my size. I knew that they could be loved elsewhere, so I created an online thrifting platform where I am now selling thrifted clothing. I made this social media platform in hopes of influencing others to analyze the aspects of their lives that can have underlying impacts. There are also many apps such as Depop, Thredup and Facebook, that create a peer to peer marketplace for reselling items. Reselling accounts like these are another form of thrifting that is much more convenient for individuals who don’t have the time or effort to search through racks of clothing to find the best items. There are so many opportunities for change that anyone can pursue. I hope that you too can recognize the negative impacts of fast fashion. I encourage you to fight against unethical labour and unsustainable brands by committing to shop second hand.
I have a passion for change, and you should too.
Butler, Sarah. “Why Are Wages so Low for Garment Workers in Bangladesh?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 21 Jan. 2019, www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/21/low-wages-garment-workers-bangladesh-analysis.
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Leon, Leonela, et al. “Why Thrifting Is Good for the Planet, Not Just Your Wallet.” Student Environmental Resource Center, 5 Mar. 2015, serc.berkeley.edu/why-thrifting-is-good-for-the-planet-not-just-your-wallet/.
Perrin, April. TEDX, Nov. 2018, www.ted.com/talks/april_perrin_the_value_of_fast_fashion?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare.
Siegle, Lucy. The True Cost, 20 Oct. 2015, truecostmovie.com/.