With the introduction of mass, low-cost production, more and more people feel less incentivized to buy used products. Regardless, the market for thrift items holds strong3. Many of us have at least one item we purchased at an auction, a second-hand store, or a charity shop. So, why buy second-hand when you can buy new ones?
Buying used goods, especially clothes, doesn't necessarily mean you cannot afford something new. It could be that the items in second-hand shops may be rare vintage, limited in stock, or something of significant value that you may never have the opportunity to buy again if you miss out on it.
But the most important reason is the environmental cost you'll be saving. Whatever your reasons, choosing to shop for second-hand items is a great idea. They offer great value to you while doing the environment a huge favor.
When talking about second-hand items or going thrifting, we might easily think of clothes and garage sales. Yes, shopping at online thrift stores for second-hand clothing and other fashion items is most common.
But we can also buy items like furniture, books, electronics, baby gear, a new car, pre-owned gift cards, tools, kid's toys and home care items, musical instruments, collectible toys, video games, and many others second-hand. Many of these make for perfect secondhand gifts.
Buying these items from swap shops does not only save money when compared with what a new one costs. It also encourages reusing, which is sustainable for the environment. In other words, you are doing yourself and the environment some good when you shop for second-hand items.
We have discovered that customers' environmental motivation and willingness to act sustainably are quite different. Why, then, should you buy used items when you can afford a new one (or not)? Here are a few reasons that are sustainable and environmentally friendly.
This remains the driving force behind buying used rather than new. Many prefer buying clothes, handbags, furniture, and kids' items from thrift shops. Their reason is that several branded new items, especially clothes, are made with lesser quality materials and sold at high prices.
Remember this the next time you want to buy some clothing, a book, furniture, electronics, and more. First, check out the thrift stores close to you, and you might find something you like more than the popular items.
Our climate has, over time, experienced drastic changes due to our daily activities that have proven to be harmful and unsustainable. The fashion industry is the second-largest industry globally and the second-largest polluter of the environment.
The production of cotton clothes consumes a lot of water and energy. When you buy and sell thrift clothes, shoes, bags, and other fashion items, you decrease the demand for new items hence, reducing the pressure on manufacturers to produce these items in large quantities.
Furthermore, when you shop at local retail stores for secondhand goods, you support local businesses and help reduce emissions from shipping and traveling further afield. Purchasing locally is almost always better for the environment.
People who buy used cars help reduce the need for companies to source materials required to build the car and ship it around the world, thereby reducing pollution to some extent. According to a 2015 study, the demand for more new goods will decrease if there is a constant supply of used products that are still valuable. In other words, second-hand markets have a positive impact on the environment1.
It's possible to find a lucky luxury when shopping second-hand. In fact, some people earn a side income by browsing for high-valued items and reselling them for a profit. You can buy those items you may only see online and are beyond your budget for less money or by using a gift card at a second-hand store.
There are thousands of luxury products in stores like this, waiting for someone to rediscover them. Many of these stores have an app you can use to shop for these products.
You can find high-end designer outfits on eBay, Facebook, an online thrift shop, a garage sale, charity shops, or retail stores. And you might just find a rare vintage or luxury item you will love.
Instead of buying something new from fast fashion brands, buying secondhand clothes or products from a thrift store extends the life cycle of second-hand clothing or products, which is an incredible way to avoid waste pollution.
Second-hand shopping and ethical shopping work hand-in-hand. As a regular thrift shopper, you will be contributing less to the average output of manufacturers. This happens when we, as a global society, choose to buy fewer new products. Manufacturers make so much to sate a hungry market. Reduce the demand, and we reduce the activities that contribute to pollution and the degradation of our environment.
Also, manufacturing strategies used by companies that mass-produce goods are not convenient and conducive for their workers. Increasing demand for these massed-produced goods will only support exploitative and unethical practices. Often, they defy human rights.
While there are good companies out there that are ethical and transparent with their methods and strategies, they are only a handful, and their products tend to be quite expensive, with their prices above what an average person can afford.
So, each time you buy and sell used goods, you invest in building a fairer world by reducing sweatshops and slave labor. If we change our buying habits, then manufacturers will need to change their production strategies as well and produce more ethical fashion.
A considerable percentage of cotton grown for textile relies heavily on pesticides which acidify the soil and contaminate the nearby water supply.
One of many noteworthy fast fashion facts is that the industry produces about 20% of global wastewater and emits about 10% of global carbon emissions, which is more than what is emitted by maritime shipping and international flights when combined. This further proves how our activities cause more damage to the environment.
Rather than add to the problems, we can effect a change by adopting new buying habits to become sustainable and environmental-friendly.
Before buying those new clothes from your favorite retail store, think about the resources that went into their production and how we could have used them for an environmentally friendly cause. Even if purchasing from a sustainable clothing brand or one that champions eco-friendly production, manufacturing still requires energy and materials.
Reusing ensures that we use items to their full capacity. Whether you cannot afford a brand new product or are environmentally conscious, build a habit of buying used.
Whether you shop secondhand to use that item, donate, or gift someone, you are making it useful and giving it a new life. Second-hand clothing also makes an excellent choice for upcycling clothes you already have through repair, patching, or restyling them.
If you buy it for personal use, make sure to use it with care. Keep the item in excellent condition so you can later donate, resell, or gift them.
Whichever you decide to do, the reuse and recycle process continues, making it one less item that would end up in a landfill.
When you go to a garage sale to buy some thrift goods, everyone comes hoping to get a good deal. This includes both the buyer and the seller. Unlike mass-produced new goods that come with a fixed price, buying thrift goods allows you to bargain with the seller and saves you more money.
You can both negotiate on different products and come to an amount that works great for both of you. Although the seller may have fixed a price for each item, you can, in most cases, beat down the price.
It is almost impossible to buy used items from people regularly without building friendships and community relationships, one of the reasons thrifting has become so popular.
For instance, in the case of a garage sale, you may be inquisitive about the story behind certain items on sale. When you decide to ask the seller, it might stir up a conversation that will expand your perspective about an area and give you more reasons to buy from them.
Also, suppose you thrift shop regularly from a particular charity shop or thrift store around your area. In that case, you will likely become familiar with the salesperson, who may even give you a call each time there are new arrivals.
Another community movement on the rise is "buy nothing new groups." Check if there is one already in your area, or you can set one up to facilitate second-hand trades, or start a buy-nothing-new challenge.
Many thrift stores donate some (or even all) of the money you spend on purchasing used clothing and other products to non-profit organizations.
When people donate their household goods and unwanted clothes to charities such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries, the U.S. government offers tax incentives to these individuals. This helps reduce the portion of clothing and textiles that would otherwise go to landfills or incinerators and provides jobs for more people.
To make sure that your money is going to good causes, do some research on the thrift stores in your area. Ask them if they have any charity affiliations and how you, as a customer, can do more. This way, you'll spend money to buy things you need while also helping others with their needs.
You can feel (and enjoy) the shopping thrill for different reasons, including doing something good for your community. And the data shows that buying from charity-focused thrift stores is indeed helpful2.
The sixth-largest expenditure for households in Europe is buying clothes. Although this isn't a waste of household income, some of that money can do well for other needs. Also, the effect of having so many clothes on the environment is extremely high. The clothing industry creates a vast amount of waste in the supply chain and at the end of clothing life, where it often gets thrown away in any area.
End-users prefer throwing a lot of their used clothes in dumpsites and landfills, and the impact of such actions is not sustainable. Regardless of its size, no country in the world has the land space to sustain this waste practice. The ECAP offers several solutions4, including the option to sell these clothes as second-hand clothes.
If you want to buy high-end brands or antique pieces for lower prices, then visit a consignment store or look for one near you. These stores help brands who want a place to store their goods while allowing them to keep the items' ownership right until it gets sold.
Since most items sold here are donated, buying them is almost like making donations for a good cause. Most charity shops have a list of commodities like kids' clothing and other things they accept for donation, so check their website to know the categories of things they need.
They usually have a range of products that are quite rare. The rarity of these products makes them sell fast. Since a vintage store always posts newly available items, you should follow them on social media for updates. When you see something you like, make sure you buy it at that moment because many people may be interested in that product.
There are lots of online shops/platforms where you can get quality second-hand commodities. Some popular options are eBay, Craigslist, Poshmark, and Facebook's online marketplace. Our list of the best online thrift stores also offers more options.
And if you're looking for product-specific thrift products like second-hand baby equipment or sports gear, a quick Google search can help you find the right second-hand stores.
There are many benefits when you shop secondhand. Purchasing a product that will serve its purpose for a long time is more sustainable than one you may need to change now and then. Items that last well enough for the owners to resell are often made using high-quality materials.
You can ditch the easy-to-break, mass-produced, low-quality stuff we often see in stores with second-hand items. Let us take suitcases, for instance. Some of us may have seen those of our parents and grandparents. These suitcases were constructed with durable and quality products, lasting long enough for us and even our kids to see.
Beyond quality and durability, buying second-hand means you're playing your part in reducing waste. When you buy second-hand, you maximize the resources taken from the Earth and deviate from the throwaway culture.
Yan, R.-N., Bae, S.Y. and Xu, H. (2015), Second-hand clothing shopping among college students: the role of psychographic characteristics, Young Consumers, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 85-98. https://doi.org/10.1108/YC-02-2014-00429
|Luz Claudio, 2007, Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry, Environmental Health Perspectives 115:9 CID: https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.115-a449|
Hristova, Yulia. (2019). The Second-Hand Goods Market: Trends and Challenges. Izvestia Journal of the Union of Scientists - Varna. Economic Sciences Series. 8. 62-71. 10.36997/IJUSV-ESS/2019.8.3.62.
ECAP. (2017) Mapping clothing impacts in Europe
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.