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SMK Freelance: Is buying secondhand ethical?

August 25, 2017

If you read my first post, you already know about the turning point I had recently with how I view the fashion industry, but in case you missed it, I decided a few months ago that I would no longer support companies who rely on sweatshops to produce their products. However, with that revelation came the very immediate realization that it was time, yet again for our son to size up. This meant that I had to put my money where my mouth was maybe a little more quickly than I'd anticipated.

 

See, I've always been an incredibly frugal shopper, BUT- in large part due to my husband being the youngest in a large family where hand-me-downs were king and me coming from a household with a single mother, I have always made it a priority to buy NEW clothes for the kids every season. This is super easy to do if you're like me and you watch out for flash sales and 20-30% off coupons at outlet stores: I've been known to come out of the store with an entire season of new clothes for one kid or the other for well under $100. We've always made it a point to donate our clothes, which I could feel particularly good about considering they never ended up wearing half of them.

 

AND THEN I found out that the two main store we shop at for our kids rely heavily on sweatshops and my thrifty world came crashing to the ground. 

 

It's all rainbows & unicorns to make the decision to buy responsibly made clothing as an adult because a) you've probably finished growing and b) the chances of you ripping or staining your clothes (unless you're me) goes down significantly as an adult. But for a toddler- they're still growing rapidly and there's a need to go up a size once every 3-6 months. Even our 5 year old has to go up a size every 6 months to a year, so unless you have a money tree in your back yard, it can be difficult to justify paying $20/bodysuit or $40 for a pair of jeans they'll wear a handful of times and will probably ruin so you can't even donate/sell them so someone else can make use of them.

 

 

So how do you remain thrifty without feeding fast fashion? While shopping secondhand is not entirely the same thing as not supporting the brands who rely on sweatshops, it DOES lessen the demand for their use AND it keeps more clothing out of landfills. The hashtag #shopsecondhandfirst is trending for good reason right now and since we can't even begin to pretend to be in a place where we have the kind of disposable income to shop all new, responsibly made clothing, I decided to give it a try.

 

I have been aware of companies like Ebay and thredUp for quite some time, but for me, it seemed a little too iffy to attempt to buy clothing from individuals I don't know and pay shipping for each individual item that is not guaranteed to be in great condition, so Ebay was out. And while I'm often impressed with thredUp's selection of adult clothing and high-end fashion finds, Swap beat them out on their kid's selection. 

 

In my next blog, I'll go more in depth about my personal experience with the online consignment site Swap.com, but for now, I'll leave you with some thoughts to help you make a decision about whether shopping secondhand is right for you!

 

Do you have small children?

Do you have a need to change your wardrobe often on a limited income?

Does the idea of perfectly good clothing piling up in a landfill make you cringe?

Do you enjoy the excitement of a great find?

Do you like the idea of wearing clothes that most others won't be wearing at that time?

Would you feel good about supporting a smaller/local business over a corporate giant?

 

If you answered YES! to any of those questions, shopping seconhand may be for you. 

 

 

But is it ethical? I'm certainly no expert on the subject and if there were no limitations involved, I would probably say it's always best to buy new, ethically made, responsibly sourced clothing that is sustainable and made in a facility that supports eco-friendly practices that are local to you, but the fact of the matter is: there are not a lot of companies that fit the bill on all of those things and how many of us are lucky enough to live close to one? And even if we've found this magical unicorn that meets all of our family's clothing needs and happens to be right around the corner, can we afford it? 

 

Deciding to be more mindful about your clothing purchases is the first step. What you do after that has to be a personal decision based on where you are in your journey.

 

What are your thoughts on thrifting? Is it more ethical to shop consignments or to always seek out new clothing made by responsible companies? Let us know in the comments! And be sure to check out the referral tab- I'm adding great deals all the time.

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