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Is Your Thrifting Habit Problematic?

a woman with manicured hands hold a shoe in a clothing store

Few things feel better than a truly great thrift haul — a new-to-you wardrobe for a super affordable price. More and more people are catching on to the thrill of the thrift. A recent report by Thredup estimates that 33 million Americans bought secondhand clothing for the first time in 2020. While this is good news for the environment and sustainability, the way you approach this fun new hobby might not always be ethical.

Here are three ways your thrifting habit might be impacting your community, and two ways you can change it.

See also: The history of fashion: important style moments of the 20th century.

stacks of clothing on an old black grand piano

You’re (probably) over-consuming

If you always find yourself bringing home a haul from your local thrift store, it might be time to consider this. Big props for satisfying your itch for fashion in an environmentally-conscious way, but buying way more than you actually need can cancel out your sustainable intentions.

Don’t feel the need to fill your cart unless you actually need and will wear everything. With such low prices, it can be tempting to buy it anyways, but think twice. Especially when it means others might go without.

See also: 11 thrifting secrets from a former thrift store employee.

a woman's sweatered arm reaches for clothing on a rack

You might be taking items from those in need

It’s hard image when you are flipping through the racks-on-racks, but for many low-income folks, this is the only option they have. That’s because thrift stores are one of the few affordable and accessible places to buy clothes and home items. In fact, many thrift stores started as charity shops, with the low prices there to help those who couldn’t afford to buy new. This should be top of mind when thrift shopping, especially in low-income neighbourhoods.

And while oversized clothing is totally trendy (and comfy), be considerate of the fact that there’s not a lot of second-hand clothing options for plus-sized folks. So be sure to leave not to clear out the XL section on your visit.


Related: 20 things you should stop buying in 2021.

a young woman taking photos of clothing in a trunk

You’re thrifting just to resell items online

There’s money to be made reselling your clothes on websites and apps like Depop, Poshmark or even Facebook Marketplace, especially the vintage scores. I’ve done it. I wasn’t cut out for Girlboss fame, but for a while, selling my vintage wardrobe on Etsy helped me pay rent.

But every item you score and sell for a profit is something a low-income person can’t wear themselves. Plus, participating in reselling helps drive up demand (and prices) in thrift stores.

a young woman holding up two t-shirts on hangers and looking down

Here’s how to make thrifting more ethical

Look at clothing as something you invest in

It’s OK to outgrow your clothes, or test out a new style. Just be mindful about your thrift store purchases. Look for quality items. Before you buy, consider when and what you’ll wear it with. Commit to washing and wearing it once you bring it home. Overall, you’ll save money and learn to value the items you do bring home.

Watch: How to thrift like a pro.

a pair of faded jeans folded over a chair

Host or attend a clothing swap

Before you hit up the thrift store, try trading clothes with friends, neighbours or other people in your community. Clothing swaps are super fun and a little chaotic, but often deliver the same thrill of finding something new. Find out about swaps on Facebook community groups in your town, your community centre or just ask friends. Bonus, there’s often no fee, or very little money involved. Look at you, participating in an alternative economy!

You may also like: 9 beauty trends we’re happy entered our lives.


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