shopping secondhand... is it ethical?

Today someone asked me if shopping secondhand is "ethical" since it usually means buying brands that aren't necessarily made ethically. 

This isn't the first time I've gotten that question, so I figured it warranted a blog post. 

The short answer is...


But, I definitely get the confusion. Let me break it down for you: 

When you purchase something secondhand, your money is not going to the company that produced that item. The item has already been made, purchased, and given away or sold. You are not perpetuating the cycle of fast fashion when you buy it. You ARE however prolonging the "life" of that item which is a good thing for the environment. 

Only 10% of the clothes people donate to thrift stores get sold - the rest end up in landfills or flood markets in developing countries.* When a developing country receives a surplus of our old cheap clothing, local artisans and garment producers are forced out of business. 

(Stay tuned for a post on how to responsibly get rid of your old clothing.)

Purchasing secondhand keeps clothing out of landfills and out of the textile market in developing countries. That's a win.

Consignment and thrift stores can't have unethical practices in manufacturing since they aren't actually doing the manufacturing... so your money isn't supporting all the nasty things like sweatshops and child labor. That's a win. 

Now that you know secondhand shopping is a win for the environment and the global market, let's talk about the pros and cons. 


-You can't always find the item you're looking for in your size... it takes time. 

-The quality of clothing isn't always as good as a newly purchased piece. (Sometimes it is like-new though!) 

-It's hard to give as a gift... I don't know why, but secondhand feels odd as a present. (Maybe I just need to get over that.)

-Your money isn't supporting anything bad, but it also isn't directly supporting the ethical marketplace. This isn't really a "con" as much as it's something to weigh in the balance. 


-It's by far the most affordable way to shop. Hands down. You can't tell me that H&M is cheaper than a thrift store. 

-The joy of finding a secondhand outfit that fits you perfectly is like finding buried treasure.

-If you're dressing kids, it's ideal for their quickly-growing-selves. 

-There are a lot of local options for thrift stores AND ThredUp online has literally thousands of like-new options. Again, you have to be patient to find what you want, but I have had HUGE success.  


I'd love to hear your secondhand shopping tips and tricks!