Thrifting Is Recycling

In finding new clothing or trying to find a gift, here’s a novel idea to appeal to the budget, eco-bro in the back of your head: go to a thrift store.

This isn’t that insane of a concept and is something that I have been a lover of my entire life (especially when paired with the more upgraded alternative, vintage stores). Thrifting for clothing and goods is so appealing because there is an element of the hunt that is abnormally absent in most retail today. Everything seems preyed upon and “done” in a way that exhausts individual style: it’s fatiguing that you could spend so much money on something and not look that different from anyone else. What a disappoitment.

Thus, thrifting (and vintage shopping) appeal. An added bonus? It’s kind of a form of recycling too. When you give and get from a thrift store, you’re buying something that has been lightly (or heavily) used that isn’t going to a landfill but getting a second life. How fabulous is that? Case in point: this fantastic Vox story on the importance of thrifting.

Written by Melinda Selmys, the story details why giving to thrift stores is crucial to helping persons living in poverty live life. Beyond that, understanding what is and isn’t usable is important—and many people with money lose a sense of what is and isn’t usable. Hence, recycling.

This is all couched in a big part of the story that catches a well-off person’s problem: “Don’t give it away if you wouldn’t be willing to use it yourself.” Is that a good rule to follow? Not at all.

First, the wealthiest people (who have the nicest stuff to donate) will also tend to have the highest standards for what degree of wear and tear is acceptable. I lived for a year with a girl who was upper middle class, and one day she took my daughter and bought her a pair of new rain boots because she couldn’t imagine that anyone would wear worn shoes. Half the stuff she threw out was, to my eyes, in mint condition.

Second, it assumes that poor people feel the same way about used goods that wealthier people do. This is something I see a lot: people who get all sentimental about how important it is for a child to open their toys on Christmas and find something that’s in its original packaging. Or people who think it must somehow make the poor feel subhuman to eat food with a torn label or a dinged box.

See? One person’s trash is literally another person’s treasure. If you’ve lifted trash furniture off the street, you have lived the concept.

And this extends beyond just buying for yourself: what if you were to actually go gift shopping at a thrift store? It might skeeve you out but it wouldn’t be that bad—and it would give an added element of uniqueness to a gift. Selmys points out that this is common because a lot of consumerism is about longing for packaging to verify that something is “new” and therefore “good.” That’s not the case and offers a unique opportunity to reframe what giving is about.

While New York Times condones re-gifting older items, I condone giving gifts from thrift and vintage stores. It upgrades your gifting and adds an element of intrigue that new objects don’t give. Consider this when out shopping: go to a thrift store. Look and search and find things. Why? Because it’s recycling.

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