Secondhand problems

With thrifting becoming more popular than ever, it’s important to realize the darker side of the industry.


Thrifting has become a national sensation. Cheap, fashionable clothes in fun vintage styles feel like a steal for shoppers of all demographics. Popular thrift stores such as Goodwill are expanding and pulling in more profit every year. 

People use the cheap price tags to save money for other aspects of their lives. 65% of resale shoppers say that they spend the savings they receive by avoiding the cost of new retail by splurging on experiences with their families and friends according to The Shelf. Although thrifting is fun and a great way to save some money, is it truly as sustainable as people make it out to be? The truth is yes, and no. 

Buying clothes from thrift stores will always be better for our planet than buying new clothing, especially from fast fashion companies that take advantage of cheap materials and labor like Shein and Rue21. Buying and donating used clothes keeps them out of landfills and in good use.

The purchase of one used item instead of a new one can reduce its carbon footprint by up to 82%. According to Green Story, If everyone purchased just one used item in the next 12 months, it would save 11 billion kilowatts of energy, 25 billion gallons of water, and 449 million pounds of waste. One year alone could make a huge change. Imagine if we did this for decades. This would be an easy and impactful step towards healing our planet. 

The Issues

Sadly, there is a darker side to the resale industry. When you donate clothes, you assume they will be placed in the store and resold, but that is rarely the case. According to the EPA, 84% of donated clothing ends up in landfills or incinerated. This might seem demoralizing, but there are solutions. 

The Solutions

Thrifting is still a good option to be more sustainable with your clothing. You’re wearing things that have been used before instead of them sitting in a landfill and that’s great, but the best solution is to buy less clothing and keep your clothes longer. Buy high-quality clothing that you actually like and will want to wear for a long time. That way you can ensure it’s getting proper use. 

It’s important to realize that this solution might not work for everyone. Sustainable, high-quality clothing is expensive and not everyone can afford to express themselves properly with only the finest quality fabrics. That’s when thrifting becomes the better option. The ability to afford sustainable clothing is a privilege not everyone has. So if you have the choice, you should take it instead of buying low-quality clothing from fast fashion brands and donating them to the landfills.