PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — Thrift stores are not reserved for people who cannot afford name brands at retail price. Thrift stores serve their communities at home and abroad, and a small purchase to update your wardrobe can have a big impact on the world around you. If you buy at thrift stores, you can:
1. Put Resources to Good Use
In 2012, around 14.3 million tons of textiles were produced, accounting for almost 6 percent of landfill contents in the United States. Ninety-nine percent of that “garbage” is recyclable. And while Americans discard around 68 pounds of clothing a year, they only buy an average of ten pounds of recycled clothing. Thrift stores provide a way for clothing–often barely worn–to find a new home, while protecting the environment at the same time.
Buying from thrift stores also keeps them in business, allowing them to continue keeping clothing out of landfills and providing cheap clothing to the people who need it.
2. Support Causes at Home and Abroad
Keeping thrift stores in business also allows them to continue supporting charities and organizations invested in bettering the world. A quick look at the Salvation Army website reveals their investments in adult rehabilitation, elderly services, hunger relief, and emergency disaster relief. Those are only a few programs on the list. Abroad, they also build hospitals, clinics, schools, and community centers, employing local people to aid them, economically. Goodwill also trains people for employment. All thrift stores employ people domestically, boosting the economy.
Along with these structured programs, thrift stores also donate what they are not able to sell straight to people who cannot afford more clothing.
3. Fight Against Slave Labor
Often, the people who need clothing donations most are the people who made the clothes in the first place. People usually become outraged when they hear their favorite company participates in child or forced labor, but as long as the company says it is sorry, nothing usually changes, and people go back to buying the items of the brand. Companies are often willfully ignorant of how their supply chain works, even if they make sure the most visible level is ethical.
A study done by Free2Work in 2012 studied 50 companies, encompassing around 300 brands. The study evaluates these companies on the basis of their Policies when it comes to ethical labor, their Traceability and Transparency (whether or not they know and disclose how their supply chains work), their Monitoring and Training (how they react to and prevent unethical labor), and their Worker Rights (whether or not workers have a voice, and how much they are paid).
Not many companies received good reviews from the study. While most received a grade of A in Policies because they know what people want to hear, the average grade for Worker Rights was an F. The findings of these policies are evident in small acts of rebellion; a British woman reported finding an additional tag sewn onto her clothes that said “forced to work exhausting hours.” This is not the only time something like this happened in connection with that company (Primark).
Buying from thrift stores sends the message to companies that you are not okay with these policies, through lower sales numbers. Thrift stores do not make any clothing themselves, so you can know that there was no additional slave labor that went into your fashion statement.
4. Save Money
Clothing from thrift stores is discounted, meaning you can spend less money while still looking good. You can then put those extra resources towards fighting poverty by donating to organizations like The Borgen Project, or other charities for which you have a passion. Buying from thrift stores means you have the ability to help more people, while still looking good.
If you don’t shop, you can also donate to a thrift store or another clothing donation organization. Not all thrift stores are non-profit–for-profit examples include Savers, Unique Thrift, and Valu Thrift–but they all provide services to the community. If you are dedicated to donating to nonprofits, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Silver Angel or Bibles for Missions all fit the bill.
– Monica Roth
Sources: Care2, Free2Work, The Guardian, South Wales Evening Post, Salvation Army, Goodwill, Times Free Press, SF Gate, Smart Givers Network, EPA