As someone who tries her best to be eco-conscious and support her community, I often find myself torn between buying second-hand items or buying local or sustainable. I’ve recently gotten into becoming more environmentally aware—eating vegetarian, buying most of my clothes from thrift shops, and reducing my plastic waste—and I want to know the best ways to help the planet and my society.
Being conscious of your impact on the planet is more important now than ever because of the accelerating environmental damage we humans continue to contribute to each year. And with the rising trend of thrift shopping, I wondered how much could this really help the planet?
When looking at this dilemma from an environmental standpoint, it’s better to buy second-hand most of the time. This keeps waste out of landfills and continues its usage life. People often don’t know that their old clothing can be reused or recycled instead of thrown into the trash, and 95% of garments that are sent to landfill each year are still usable in some way.
You may think that buying a sustainable product doesn’t create any waste, but producing any product, sustainable or not, does have an impact on the environment and it does use resources. The fashion industry alone uses 32 million Olympic-sized swimming pools of fresh water and emits 2.1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.
While caring for the environment is crucial, aiding the local economy is also essential to help our community thrive and to have the necessary human resources.
Supporting local businesses is so important, especially in a big city where they can be pushed to the bottom of the pyramid. Smaller towns are usually built on family-run restaurants and unique shops, while large cities have many chain companies. To help out in the community, buying local and sustainable is a must so that small businesses don’t go bankrupt or shut down. This way you are also able to know the people who made your product and the process that it took to get to you.
Choosing to support smaller companies who pride themselves on their small, responsibly made thoughtful batches, means also supporting a business that typically works with smaller manufacturers with higher standards of quality and better working conditions for people. The goal in mind with sustainable products is to try to keep the product away from landfills for as long as possible.
I personally like to support small shops in my neighbourhood like boutiques, bakeries and antique stores. It keeps me connected with the community and exposes me to new cultures. I mostly opt for second-hand items because they are more unique and vintage. I really like the mid-2000’s trends, and thrift stores always seem to have a good selection in my size. I also love finding cool accessories that are handmade or luxury, like bags, jewelry, and shoes.
When you buy a used item it is often cheaper in price (which is always a plus), and it can be of higher quality than newer fast fashion trends. Much of the new clothes we buy today are of low quality, made with cheap fabrics and materials, and are often made by poor factory workers in 3rd world countries. These workers are paid pennies for their hours of work so that the companies can make the largest profits possible off their garments. Buying second-hand can be hard when you are looking for a specific item or style, and sizing can be difficult too.
It all comes down to the details. When buying clothing or furniture, always make sure it is good quality whether it’s second-hand or new. This will ensure it lasts long and doesn’t end up in landfills. Looking for new sheets or towels? Buying new is a better option to be clean and safe for your body. Shopping for new clothes? Check out your local thrift store first before going to H&M or Zara. Always be mindful of your items’ impact on the planet, the animals, and the people.