Welcome to our Go Green Challenge: 4 Weeks to an Earth-Friendly Home! Find more posts from this series here. As a reminder, we are focusing on buying only used this week.
Let’s talk clothes. I really enjoy clothes — I like looking at fashion and even enjoy shopping up to a certain point. Fashionista, I am not, but I do like everyday, regular-girl fashion. I am not into couture, designer labels, or cutting edge anything. I’m fairly pedestrian in all areas of life, including the clothing I wear and like.
I have always purchased clothing on sale or from the clearance racks. That’s what I’ve been taught — when I heard “Half-off clearance sale at Lamonts” as a child, I knew my mom and her friends were going shopping and taking all the children with them. We’d play in the clothing racks while the moms would work through what seemed to be 1,284 racks of clearance clothes at the old Lamonts store in the SeaTac Mall (wazzup, Federal Way?).
When I became an adult, I followed suit. Shop the sales. Use your coupons. Drop everything for a good clearance sale and build your wardrobe. I never thought of where my clothing was made or who was making it, I just liked that it was inexpensive and plentiful.
This was working just fine until I read this blog post, “Financial Stewardship is Overrated” two months ago:
Every time we make a purchase, even if the item is free (when I am using coupons) we set into motion a series of events that causes human lives to be destroyed. Yes, you read that correctly. Human lives, children’s lives, destroyed because of what we purchased at the mall.
The author spoke to my heart.
I can NOT continue to live as if the individuals in the other side of the globe don’t exist. Human stewardship is caring for the individuals that God created in His image, designed by Him for a purpose.
And it cut me to the core.
I understand that I cannot change the entire clothing manufacturing industry. I can’t save all the people who work in places like the garment factory in Bangladesh that collapsed and killed upwards of 440 people who were making clothes for us (and now read what Katy at The Non-Consumer Advocate writes — ouch). But my faith tells me I am responsible for my decisions and those people who are affected by my decisions. And it’s pretty clear that clothing made overseas carries a very high likelihood that it was made by a child, a slave, or someone working in horrible working conditions.
So I have made the decision to opt out of this system as much as I can. I am finished buying new clothing. I do know there are labels and online stores that carry clothing made by adults making a liveable wage in safe conditions, but I just don’t have the time right now in my life to research it. I also don’t want to spend the next two months learning exactly what each classification of manufacturing means. I need to wash my floors. So the only easy solution I can come up with right now is to buy used clothing. No research, no searching involved and my money stays in my local community.
Right about the time I made this decision, I spiraled into a panic. I was convinced I would never find anything that fit or looked cute again (I am constantly plagued by first-world problems). I may have even cried.
And then I made myself walk into the Salvation Army thrift store on a Wednesday for their 50% off sale. Yes, it smelled a bit (there’s a lot of heavy smokers who shop on 50% off days). Yes, the place is not organized by the correct size all the time. And yes, I had to search a little.
But you know what? Two hours later, I walked out with four pairs of jeans that fit and looked fantastic on me. Four pairs of jeans for $15.96. Total. And all $15.96 went to the Salvation Army. I was reborn at that moment.
That was six weeks ago. I am a mere thrifting baby, just learning the ways of secondhand shopping, but I am beyond thrilled. Since my initial Salvation Army experience, I have discovered other fantastic secondhand clothing options both locally in Portland and online. I am now convinced that you can build a fantastic secondhand wardrobe filled with quality items at equal to or less than what you’d get on sale or clearance at the stores. And it does not require hours upon hours of digging. I promise.
Not only does purchasing clothing secondhand remove you from the garment industry chaos, but it means one less jeans-sized amount of natural resources had to be used to create it. I love that I can be socially, environmentally, and financially responsible all at the same time!
My commitment at this point is to purchase all my clothing secondhand except socks, underwear, and bras (lucky for me that my Nordstrom nursing bras are made in Portugal). I’m still on the fence about shoes — I may be willing to pony up for fair trade shoes or just wear TOMS with everything (please tell me TOMS are on the up-and-up). I have also started transiting to secondhand clothing for my kids and made a good start shopping this season’s children’s consignment events.
Coming next: Where I’ve shopped and some outfits I’ve built with secondhand clothing!
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