Thrift More, Waste Less: How Shopping Secondhand is More Eco-Friendly

Photo provided by Jennifer Stroud

So, metal straws are great. I’m drinking out of one right now as I write this. Reusable bags are cool too- I keep a couple of canvas totes hanging on the door of my room for when I go shopping, but what’s even better, at least for the environment, is if what goes in your bag isn’t brand new.

Thrift stores, consignment stores, vintage shops, garage and lawn sales- even ordering a second hand piece from an Instagram store or on Depop (a thrifting app) can bring a piece of someone else’s wardrobe to you. Once you get past the initial nerves (“Okay, but someone else wore this!!”, “How do I know no one died in this??”, etc.) it gets really fun.

I have gotten in the habit of going to the thrift store about once a month to scavenge for some new pieces. Each time I spend roughly $30 but walk out the America’s Thrift Store automatic doors with a (reusable) bag full of new stuff. Well, new-ish. I’ve gotten everything from t-shirts, jackets, jeans, belts, bags, and even a pair of white sneakers that became my go-to shoes for about 6 months. (Those were $3, may they rest in peace.) 

Yes, every time I walk in I am met with the familiar and strange thrift store smell that I can’t ever quite place, but that’s alright. One wash and wear and whatever I buy starts smelling like All detergent and usually not much else. Besides, the thrift store is a great place to find decades-old pieces that I really love, rather than spending the same amount of money on a low-quality item from somewhere like Forever 21 or H&M that *might* last a couple of washes, max. 

Clothes damage the earth a lot more than you think. I mean, it’s a long process to make that t-shirt you’re wearing: growing and harvesting the cotton, turning it into thread and then to fabric, sewing it into a shirt, shipping it to a store— you can imagine how much all of that entails. So, the more clothes you buy second hand, the less go to waste, and you’ll be less likely to buy a brand new item similar to what you’ve thrifted. You’re saving all of the waste attributed to those new clothes by recycling old pieces instead. If that piece happens to be a super cool vintage Nike jacket, well, that’s even better for you.

In Alabama, there are lots of thrift stores scattered around larger cities. Where I live, in Tuscaloosa, the massive America’s Thrift Store on Skyland is the most popular. However, not many people shop there often- especially not young people. In fact, the only time I’ve seen teenagers around is during football season, when they look for t-shirts from rival schools for spirit days (like my school’s “Country Fry County High” theme includes lots of royal blue Tuscaloosa County High School shirts.) It’s a missed opportunity for local youth to show their passion for the environment (and fashion, of course.) So grab a reusable bag and head to your nearest thrift store- you may be surprised by what you find. 

For more information on waste from the fashion industry, I’d highly recommend ‘The True Cost’, available on Netflix.

Jennifer Stroud, 17, Tuscaloosa

Written by: Jennifer Stroud / @jennifer_stroud

Photo by: Jennifer Stroud / @jennifer_stroud

Edited by: Isabel Hope / @isabama / @isabamahope

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