For the last year, I’ve been making moves towards being less wasteful and living more in lined with my personal beliefs on the environment. I’ve talked about this a few times on my blog and my YouTube channel in my zero waste series. But for every element that I have improved on, there’s another that I’m still struggling with. One area I’ve struggled with this a lot is with my closet. In the past, I’ve gone from an overwhelming amount of clothing, to full purges to get my wardrobe down to around 100 individual items. Purging my closets sometimes feels like a fade diet— It’s uber successful at first but gradually my number starts to creep back up.
It’s the clothing equivalent to yo-yoing weight loss.
I want to shop more sustainable clothing, but I also have brands and a particular style that I love and feel confident in. Finding ways to balance my love of J Crew denim shirts and my desire to lower my carbon footprint has been a bigger challenge than I anticipated, until I remembered thrift shops. Perhaps sourcing more of my clothing second hand would be the solution I’ve been searching for. Luckily for me, Portland is a city full of vintage shops and I’ve had pretty good luck over the years digging through the racks. A couple of my favorite items have come from the Buffalo Exchange on Hawthorne, including the hat pictured above. Unfortunately though, some of my favorite brands are more like hidden gems at a thrift shop than a staple.
That’s how I finally crossed over to the Poshmark side. I’ve seen Poshmark pop up on my Pinterest before, and suddenly it seemed like everyone I knew was using it to sell and source clothing. I resisted it for a long time before finally breaking down and checking it out. It’s a used clothing gold mine (and lot’s of people are reselling new items on the site as well). In addition to being a good way to give a clothing item new life, Poshmark is generally more affordable than buying a product new at full retail price, which is pretty nice when you make your living as a writer. Now I do have a few pro and cons that weigh on my mind when shopping on Poshmark:
Pro: I can find lightly used (or new) items from brands I loved and source more of my clothing/shoes second hand.
Con: The selection of items that are “this season” is limited and can go fast.
Pro: I have a second chance to pick up a shoe, shirt, skirt, etc., that I missed out on buying when it was new in stores (usually because it sold out of my size before I bit the bullet to buy it).
Con: SHIPPING! Unlike buying from a local thrift store, I’m still creating environmental waste in shipping materials, transportation etc. Though, I often end up doing this when shopping anyway. Something I’m trying to change.
Pro: It’s easy to resell my own clothing. I often donate my clothing to somewhere like Goodwill, but it’s kind of fun reselling it and using my earnings to buy something else I’ve had my eye on. (I do still try to donate clothing as well as.)
Con: I’m putting shipping on this cons list twice because shipping waste really does make me feel guilty.
Buying clothing second hand does helps extend the life and sustainability of the product, and that can add up to a noticeable impact on the amount of waste generated from the industry. However, there are loads of arguments over how much more ethical it really is. I’ll summarize what I found to be the most compelling argument: It comes down to weighting the excessive amount of waste inputted to the material and the ethical standings of the manufacturing process for the used product verses the sustainability and ethical practices associated with the new product. To me, the real argument is whether a used clothing item is still ethical to purchase if the original manufacturing process was not ethical. Example did the company use unethical/unsafe labor practices? Is it made from a toxic material or die? Etc. It’s a good rule of thumb to forgo cheap “throwaway” clothing in favor of buying products that are made well, constructed to last, and use ethically sourced materials. Just something to think about while picking out clothing—new, uses, or otherwise. This is one reason I tended to stick to brands I’ve already vetted.*
For me, I’ve decided to implement a three step process for purchasing clothing:
Truth be told, I don’t always feel too guilty buying a product new for one important reason: I like supporting the companies that I like.
GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.