Today I’d like to share my thoughts on a topic that has been on my mind recently: buying second-hand—specifically clothes shopping. There are a few reasons I’ve been thinking about this topic and why I’m going to try to buy second hand when possible. 

The first reason or benefit that I see for buying used is related to environmental impact. Aside from simply not buying anything at all and making do with what you already have, the most environmental shopping choice you can make is to buy used or second-hand.

Pile of folded sweatersYou are doing your part to decrease demand and subsequent (over)production of clothing and textiles. When demand and production decrease, so too does the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills. There are statistics out there about the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills that are, frankly, disturbing. I won’t get into that here, but I will include some books and articles at the end of this post should you want to read further into this issue. A lot of those clothes are also made of synthetic materials, which usually means some form of plastic. The global plastic consumption problem is a whole monster that is certainly not just one for individual consumers to tackle, but shopping second-hand is one small way you can reduce your own. As a bonus, buying used means less packaging used. If you’ve never worked retail, you might not be aware just how much (plastic) packaging there is. Often each individual piece of clothing comes wrapped in plastic.

Making the choice to buy used means the resources used to make that item of clothing have extended further. The amount of resources, i.e., water, energy, etc., used to make even a single item of clothing is pretty staggering. Plus, there’s the greenhouse gases produced. Again, if you’d like to learn more, stick around to the end where I’ll list some resources for further reading and research.

Textile production has a lot of moving parts at its various stages and each typically creates at least one byproduct. Those various byproducts can pollute not only the air, but soil and waterways as well. Regulations apply in some countries but, often, the parts of production with the most potential to create those harmful byproducts are outsourced to countries or areas with fewer (sometimes none) of those regulations. When you buy something used, your money won’t be used to further fund those practices. 

The second benefit I consider for buying primarily used clothing is more obvious: economics. Those clothes are almost always going to be cheaper. I only say ‘almost’ because I’ve walked into my fair share of “vintage” stores that I had to walk right back out of when I checked out the price tags. Speaking broadly, however, second-hand shops are pretty much always going to mean your dollar will stretch further. I’ve found this to be the case, especially, when it comes to finding quality items. Yes, there are stores that offer a large selection of clothing that isn’t terribly expensive. Largely, though, I’ve found that the clothes from these stores are of lesser quality and usually don’t last very long. Of course you’ll find clothing like this at thrift stores as well, but you also have a pretty good chance of finding some quality pieces of clothing that will last you a lot longer for a lot less money than its brand new counterpart.

Hands sewing with machine, close upA benefit for my fellow crafty people, thrift stores are great places to find materials for projects. Cheap yarn for knitting/crochet? I’ve found great stuff at thrift stores. You can even find great sweaters/scarves that you might not wear but you can unravel and use that yarn for new projects! You can also find clothes to resize or dismantle and repurpose (or “Upcycle”) if you have some mad sewing skills. A side not about this, if you’re currently doing some spring cleaning, your own closet is a great place to find things for projects like this as well. Before you throw away an old t-shirt, consider cutting it up to make t-shirt yarn or a t-shirt quilt or even just a rag. How fancy does a cleaning rag need to be, anyway? There are a lot of ways for you to use the clothes that you might otherwise just throw away. If nothing else, please consider donating them before throwing them away. Unless something is just too worn or stained, chances are it will work for someone else in some way. 

I want to state that I am pretty new to this and am certainly no expert. These are just things that I’ve decided to consider when moving forward with my shopping practices. I’ve certainly been buying mostly new for a long time now and this is a pretty recent change for me. I just think it’s never too late to start making a positive change and every little bit helps when it comes to saving money and helping to save our planet and its resources. I’m just trying my best to create habits that I feel comfortable with. If I can encourage anyone else to consider doing the same, I think that’s a win!

Here are some books you can find in our library’s collection for further reading into the environmental benefits of second-hand shopping:

For all my crafters out there reading this, have you heard about CreativeBug? They’ve got some great classes that I think apply to the reuse and upcycle portion of this post. If you haven’t used it before, it’s free with your Salina Public Library card. Here are some classes that I feel are most relevant to this post, specifically:

  • Cozy Sweatshirt Makeover
  • Upcycling: Transform a Bridesmaid’s Dress
  • Upcycling: Transform Your Wardrobe with Dye
  • Upcycling: Turn a Muumuu Into a Cute Dress
  • Sew an Artist Smock
  • No-Sew T-shirt Totes
  • Camp Creativebug: T-shirt Hacks