A lot of times people think bulk bins and mason jars when thinking zero waste, but clothing and homewares are another piece to the puzzle of creating less. Since high school, I’ve scoured the racks of thrift stores looking for gems to take home and make my own. I’ve even used websites like Shoppok to find secondhand items of clothing and furniture. Thankfully this just so happens to line up with the less waste beliefs I hold so near and dear now.
Fast fashion is literally designed to fall apart and be replaced, keeping you on the shopping cycle again and again. 12.8 million tons of textile waste is sent to US landfills every year. I highly suggest The True Cost if you’re interested in learning more about fast fashion’s environmental impact. Buying secondhand is one of the easiest ways to avoid fast fashion and keep precious resources out of our landfills, plus it’s freakin’ fun.
Whenever I share a thrift haul or thrift shopping trip on insta stories the question of, ‘how do I get started thrifting?’ always comes up. Since it’s much different than a traditional ‘mall’ shopping experience, I thought I’d share some of my best tips. The more you do it the better you get at scouring the racks, practice makes perfect, so don’t give up if you’re first to try is a bust.
How To Thrift Like a Less Waste Pro:
- Come In With a List: I check out my pinterest board (I’m always pinning thrift inspiration) and usually an online store or two that I like (currently it’s Madewell) before thrifting for a little inspiration. I also have a running list of things I want to thrift, currently, a long sleeve striped tee, gold locket, and levis are on the list so I can make sure and look for those items. Being inspired by your list will help you stay focused when there’s so much to look at in the store.
- Keep An Open Mind: Check out all sizes as sizing differs from brand to brand and vanity sizing has skewed sizing over the years. People shrink items and a 90s size large could be today’s size small. Don’t discriminate. Keep an open mind when looking at shapes and colors, things can look surprisingly different when you try it on. Throw anything that looks a little promising in your cart, you can decide later but you won’t be able to find it in the store again if you don’t throw it in your cart now.
- Try It On: You never know how your finds will fit until you get them on. Look for busted zippers, unraveling hems, and other defects that are easier to spot when you’re putting the item on. Sometimes the most perfect piece will be totally different on your body and that ‘maybe’ piece is a real score, don’t skip this step.
- Be Selective: Yes, everything is cheap but don’t be swayed by the $1 price tag, only buy what you need and will wear immediately. If you need to mend, sew, or fix the piece in any way chances are, unless you’re a sewing wiz, you just won’t get to it. Think about what you already own that you can pair with it, will this red polka dot skirt fit into your wardrobe? Or does it just seem tempting because it’s $2 and sort of cute? I always try to imagine how I’d style the piece before deciding if it will fit into my wardrobe since we are trying to create less waste and build a bomb.com closet.
- Be Persistent: Every trend comes around again, so you’re bound to find what you’re looking for if you keep looking. Boxy tee’s, trousers, and slides are all ‘in’ again and can be found aplenty at the thrifts. If I’m hunting something specific I’ll go to the thrift store once a week (on the sale day) for a few weeks and usually it will turn up. If I can’t find what I’m looking for, for example high top converse in white were no where to be found so after a few months of searching I turned to online thrifting spots like depop, etsy, and ebay. There’s also consignment stores like Buffalo Exchange and Plato’s Closet.
Thrifting isn’t just for clothes, different stores are better for certain items. Check around and get familiar with stores in your area. I have different spots for housewares, furniture, and clothing depending on what I’m looking for. Once you’re familiar with a store you can shop through it much faster because you know where to look.
I always aim to buy second hand first, not only does it not contribute to the waste stream but it saves you money as well. Most zero waste ‘essentials’ can be thrifted, think glass jars, to-go silverware, cloth napkins, etc. We have so many viable goods at our fingertips, it’s just a matter of getting out there to find them.
I hope this was a helpful guide and that you feel more empowered to get out there and hit the thrift. Practice makes perfect, you may feel overwhelmed at first, but once you go a few times you’ll be an old pro.