SPOKANE, Washington — Generation Z has entered the consumer market with a desire to shop responsibly. About 90% of Gen Z consumers expect fashion companies to confront the harm caused to workers and the environment. Consumers seeking out a truly responsible solution can consider ethical thrift shopping at nonprofit stores like Planet Aid Thrift Store in Rockville, Maryland. Directly against today’s fast fashion model that profits off poverty, Planet Aid works to reduce poverty and increase self-reliance in developing communities worldwide.
Fast Facts on Fast Fashion
Fast fashion has grown out of increased demand from consumers. In fact, fashion consumption more than doubled between 2000 and 2014. In order for fashion companies to maximize profits in the growing industry, companies outsource manufacturing to low-income nations where garment laborers work arduous hours in exchange for unfair and inadequate compensation. Garment workers average 96 hours of employment a week, often in unsafe buildings where they are in danger of disease, injury, and in extreme cases, death.
Companies often reassure consumers that laborers are paid fairly in accordance with local laws, which is only half the truth. At best, local minimum wages average only half of the necessary living wage. Retailers often claim that high demand drives them to source cheap labor. In reality, paying a living wage may likely only mark up retail prices of products by 1%. In fact, “increasing the cost of clothing made in India an average of 20 cents per item would be enough to lift all Indian garment workers out of poverty.”
The Thrift Shopping Trend
Gen Z has grown up facing the reality of the fast fashion industry and many want nothing to do with it. Young shoppers are boycotting these companies and seeking out alternatives. Brands catering to this new market, with sustainably and ethically sourced products, are expensive. In comparison, ethical thrift shopping is an affordable option for conscious clothing choices.
The call for ethical practices contributes to the popularity of resale shopping both in-person and online. Projections estimate the resale market to skyrocket in comparison to the retail market. In 2020, resellers like thrift shops, consignment stores and vintage boutiques made up more than 25,000 businesses in the U.S.
Ethical Thrift Shopping
The thrifting trend normalizes buying and wearing second-hand clothes, but it also inadvertently makes recycled items less affordable and less available to low-income shoppers. However, thrift shopping has the potential to stand as an ethical alternative to fast fashion without negatively impacting low-income communities. One aspect of ethical thrift shopping is making clothing donations. Luckily, the popularity of thrifting has made donation centers more available than ever before. If consumers are also donors, thrift shopping can be responsible and, with companies like Planet Aid, quite impactful.
Planet Aid’s Mission
Planet Aid is an organization that runs a donation program in the U.S. and a number of humanitarian programs overseas. The organization works for the environment and against fast consumption, but its main focus is people. In 2020 alone, Planet Aid spent roughly 4.6 million on international aid. The organization has one large thrift store in Rockville, Maryland, that donates its profits to Humana People to People, an international nonprofit network that benefits more than 12 million people per year. The 2019 and 2020 sales contributed more than $3 million to 50 projects in Africa, Asia and South America.
A Second Life for Donations
The average U.S. citizen has $7,000 of unwanted clutter at home and discards around 70 pounds of clothing per year. Planet Aid seeks to reduce this waste with its mail-in donation program. The program launched during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow for country-wide donations from the convenience and safety of people’s homes. Since the beginning of the pandemic, donations to Planet Aid have only increased.
A small number of U.S. donations to Planet Aid actually end up in the Rockville thrift store. The majority of these donations go directly to developing communities around the globe. The Planet Aid Thrift Store sells bales of secondhand clothing to locals who can sort and resell them. The profits from these sales then go on to boost the local economy.
Food for Knowledge
Aside from its donation program, Planet Aid has done much more to reduce poverty, improve food availability, provide education and strengthen local economies in developing communities. Between 2012 and 2020, Planet Aid partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on their Food for Knowledge program in Mozambique. The program accomplished a great deal in eight years.
- More than 90,000 children received school meals thanks to food donated by U.S. farmers.
- Eight community gardens were built to support nutrition and the local economy.
- Community members were taught to upkeep newly installed hygiene facilities.
- About 13,000 teachers were trained to teach in primary schools.
Ethical thrift shopping is the new on-trend approach to fighting fast fashion. Organizations like Planet Aid have taken this approach one step further, looking for ways that second-hand clothing can actually benefit those in need worldwide.
– Angela Basinger