Thrifting has momentum as sustainable trend

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Sam Hanson

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We are all taught to be conscious of our appearance—judged in some way or another by our ability to conform to the trends around clothing. This pressure to “look right” increases the desire to consume and buy, which contributes to a vicious cycle. With a consensus around the labor abuses and pollution of the fast-fashion industry, however, a new sustainable consumption is growing: thrifting.   

Thrifting is a way to look for alternatives to the cheap, mainstream sources of material goods. There is immediate potential in this idea: it reduces waste, and halts a cycle of consumption through the recycling of clothing.

As the idea thrifting resonates with more people who are concerned with the environment, social media could be used to support a more “wholesome” and sustainable lifestyle through posts.”

According to a 2018 ThredUp Resale Report, millennials thrift the most out of any other generation. Surprisingly, the same report found that the thrift shopper, ages 18 to 34, only wears an item one to five time before throwing it away. This contrasts the supposed desire of millennials to switch to thrifting for environmentally-conscious reasons. But looking past the impulsive nature of millennial shoppers, thrifting has the possibility to reduce the carbon footprint of the heavily-polluting fashion industry, reducing the carbon footprint of an item by 73 percent if sold secondhand.

On social media platforms, such as Instagram, users may be unconsciously pursuing a materialistic lifestyle in order to present their “ideal” life. However, as the idea thrifting resonates with more people who are concerned with the environment, social media could be used to support a more “wholesome” and sustainable lifestyle through posts.

Even though thrifting may seem to transcend class boundaries—due to the reduced prices of these goods—the choice to buy “vintage” and reject mass-produced goods reflects the shopper’s desire to be “individual” and “unique.” In fact, thrifting establishes class lines based on “insiders” and “outsiders” to the trend, where the vintage look functions as a sort of cultural capital.

However, if thrifting does not turn into the next fashion industry “craze,” it could counter some of the vices of modern consumption: most thrift stores support local economies and encourage a do-it-yourself attitude. The message preaching the evils of overconsumption is not a new one—it has existed since the time of the Puritans, and still rings out today. But these warnings still go unheard: the national debt is rising steadily at $22 trillion, with consumer debt reaching a milestone of $4 trillion last February. With the ethical cheapness of the thrifting movement, though, shoppers can gain a new appreciation for values of prudence and resourcefulness, and move past the impulsive tendencies of consumerism.

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