Thrift shopping has a positive effect on the community and environment

thrift+store+rack+with+colored+shirts+and+and+lamp+shades+on+shelf+above

Photo by Kennedy Lum

Local thrift stores such as Goodwill have multiple clothing and decor options.

Kennedy Lum, Reporter

Thrifting has become more popular in recent years and mitigates issues such as fast fashion, unemployment rates and clothing affordability for low-income households. The trend of thrifting is a positive change because it allows thrift stores to carry out their mission of making a change in the community and has a sustainable impact on landfills and the environment.

The fast fashion industry poses serious threats to the environment. The use of cheap textiles and careless consumption of clothing have negative repercussions, such as exposure to toxic chemicals and landfill overloading.

In an article published in the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode, Jensolin Abitha Kumari J., Dr. Preeti R. Gotmare and Dr. Geetha M. describe a survey conducted on Indian consumers where they analyze how mindful thrifting influences sustainability, purchase habits and frugality.

“Thrift shopping is important because it minimizes fast fashion and overspending on goods,” Kumari said.

In addition to fast fashion, thrift stores have provided jobs to marginalized people, which positively affects the economy.

“Sharing economy, environmental concern and technology has made thrift shopping more accessible, trustworthy and cool by erasing the stigma attached to it, ” Kumari said. 

The popular thrift store, Goodwill, has been around since 1902, and its intention is to do good in the community and provide opportunities to people of limited employability.

Goodwill Supervisor Madelyn Torres commented on the company’s values, outreach programs and commitment to the Thousand Oaks community.

“The Mission Services is a program that works for Goodwill,” Torres said. “All the donations that we get from our stores fund the program and give opportunities to people with disabilities whether it be homelessness or physical disabilities.”

There are other various programs backed by Goodwill, including the Second Chance program, which is an initiative that helps employ veterans as well as previously incarcerated people. Goodwill and other thrift stores not only provide jobs but also act as donation centers for items that have the potential to be electronic waste and harmful environmental fallout. 

“Whatever we don’t sell we send it back to our warehouse, and, at the warehouse, they do a sale…we try to avoid involving landfills,” Torres said.

As of 2021, there are a reported 4,245 Goodwill stores across America. The growth in popularity has made thrifting more mainstream and less catered to niche markets. 

Many argue that thrift stores are a fad and take away resources from low-income families.

This is partly accurate because online thrift stores like Depop, Vinted and thredUP charge inflated prices for on-trend used clothes. However, these online stores only represent a small percentage of thrift stores, and their target audience is not low-income families. In fact, their target market is middle-class teenagers and young adults; companies like thredUP capitalize on consumer demand for vintage used clothes. 

Likewise, most in-store thrift shops prioritize affordable pricing because all the goods sold are secondhand.

In an article published by 303 Magazine, Abby Schirmacher highlights the duality between middle-class teenagers and low-income households that frequent thrift stores.

“Recently, thrifting exploded in the eyes of younger generations as a way to express oneself fashionably, inexpensively and sustainably,” Schirmacher said. “However, thrifting has always served low-income communities. While local thrift stores struggle to balance these different consumers, their overall missions remain.”

There are many positives to locally thrifting in lieu of buying new clothes, and the benefits outweigh the cons. While there is a slight increase in price from heightened consumer demand, the integrity and philanthropic spirit of thrift stores are intact. 

“Thrifting itself is complex in the ways it serves different communities in distinct ways, but overall the sustainability intertwined with the process of buying second-hand makes all the difference,” Schirmacher said.

Thrifting amongst younger generations may be a fad, however, thrift stores have been around for many years. Thrift stores have done so much good for people in need, and their longevity is a testament to their positive impact on marginalized communities.