Buying things secondhand is arguably the most eco-friendly way to acquire new clothing. Because it is already made, no new resources need to go into it, and reusing an older item keeps it out of the landfill. Although some secondhand clothing can be expensive, such as vintage and used designer items, it is generally the cheapest way to shop in an environmentally conscious way. There are many different ways to get secondhand clothing, and some of them are listed below.
Local thrift stores
Unless you are able to get clothing for free, local thrift stores are most likely the cheapest option for secondhand clothing. There is no shipping which reduces both the financial and environmental cost of the item. Although they are a great option overall, thrift stores have their challenges. It can be difficult for plus-size and petite people to find things in their size, and the options are limited to whatever is in the store at the time.
Local Vintage Shops
Shopping at a local vintage shop is a great way to support a small business while choosing to be more environmentally friendly. The clothes are still secondhand, but they are much older than what is usually found in thrift stores. For people who like a good pair of high-waisted jeans, vintage shops can be a great place to find them without having to turn to fast fashion brands. Vintage stores can be a bit pricy, and the amount of clothes in the shop varies widely depending on which one you go to, but they are often worth looking into!
eBay is a good option to buy or sell used clothing. It is much easier to find a specific size or type of item than it is in a physical store, but there are some downsides as well. It has to be shipped which can make it more expensive as well as increase the negative environmental effects. Items also come in packaging, some or all of which may be unable to be recycled.
Trade or Buy and Sell Clothes with Friends
This can be done in person or over social media! If you have clothing that you no longer want, let friends know that they’re available to buy or trade for, or put the clothing for sale on facebook marketplace. You can find new clothing to buy or trade for this way as well!
Online secondhand clothing stores
Some online stores whole focus is on secondhand clothing. While you still have to have the items shipped, they are typically a good bit cheaper than buying clothing new and there are usually a lot more options and size inclusive choices than what can be found in a physical thrift store.
Things to check for when buying new
Some people really don’t like the idea of getting any clothing secondhand, and there are some things, like socks and underwear, that many people feel uncomfortable buying used. When secondhand clothing isn’t an option, there are a few things to look into when trying to find the most eco-friendly clothing choice.
What is the clothing made out of? Some materials have a much higher environmental footprint than others due to how they are made. It is also important to keep in mind that all fabric made from plastic, even recycled plastic, still releases micro-plastics when washed that can end up in waterways (there are special filters as well as things that you can place in your washer to help prevent this, though).
Is it a carbon neutral company?
Does the company that makes the clothing item offset all of their carbon, or at least the carbon from their shipping? If not, do they at least give customers the option to offset the carbon from their shipping for an added fee?
Are there signs of greenwashing?
Greenwashing is claim that an item is environmentally friendly when it isn’t. An important sign of greenwashing to look out for is a vague claim about being eco-friendly without any explanation or evidence. Also check to see if the brand has any environmental certifications. Not all companies that do not have environmental certifications are bad, as they may just be small or new. Having environmental certifications of some type is usually a good sign, though!
How are the products made and how are the employees treated?
Are the products well made, or will they be unusable and headed to landfill after a handful of wears and washes? Are the employees given safe working conditions and paid fair wages?
Do they donate some or all of their profits to environmental causes?
Many sustainable brands donate some portion of their profit to environmental causes. A good thing to look for when researching a brand is if they are part of 1% for the Planet.