You know what season it is when you walk outside and can smell the budding of flowers or the chirps of birds in the morning. That’s right, it’s spring cleaning season. ‘Tis the season where hoards of trash bags leave home, including but not limited to old, gross clothes that don’t fit anymore, the furniture that you got at a yard sale but have not sat on in months, or even the clothes that a loved one gave as a gift yet you just can’t seem to want to wear it.

All these bags of belongings are usually given to thrift stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army. However, this may not be the most sustainable choice someone can make when giving clothes away. While thrifting may have once been one of the most ethical and sustainable practices around, slowly, the times have changed. Today thrifting has become a sport to find vintage clothing to resell for profit and encourages consumers to buy more clothes and just donate items they do not want, which only keeps unsustainable practices alive.

Thrift shopping has slowly become a trend that has increased the number of young people popping to their nearest charity shops. This influx of thrift shopping could be due to the rise in eco-consciousness as well as their guilt revolving around the state of the earth, which has led to price tags increasing.

Not only have prices in stores raised, but an influx of people have found the rise in thrift shopping and the demand for vintage clothing as an opportunity to resell pieces at a higher price online.

Clothing is now being sold three to five times the price they had initially paid. A seller buying a $3 mickey mouse sweatshirt from Goodwill and selling it on Depop (an online-based thrift store where anyone can sell clothes or objects) for $30-plus does not sound ethical. Not only does reselling take away from those who are financially unstable and need inexpensive clothing alternatives, but it has emphasized the notion of overconsumption in the fashion industry, which is ultimately unethical.

In addition to thrift shopping becoming a gentrified commodity, thrifting has been proven not to be a silver bullet solution for helping the environment. Yes, that is a bold statement since it has been drilled into our minds that fast fashion is evil and shopping locally, homemade and at charity/thrift shops is the way to consume sustainably. While that is true, thrifting is not the one-stop solution to climate change.  Though it seems harmless to continuously go and buy from thrift shops, overconsumption can still be a problem.


Shopping has become less about necessity and more about following trends — and because of the low prices in thrift shops, you may still buy more than you need and things that you just don’t need. Thrifting feeds off the instability and unsustainability of the fast-fashion industry. Without it, there wouldn’t be such a massive second-hand market.

Fast fashion clothing (like Shein and Forever 21) that isn’t sent directly to the landfills often ends up in second-hand shops, or if there is not enough space in a second-hand store, the textiles get sent to be used in a second-hand manner.

According to Environmental Health Perspectives, about “30% of these textiles are turned into absorbent wiping rags for industrial uses in America alone. Another 25–30% are recycled into fiber for use as stuffing for upholstery, insulation, and the manufacture of paper products.” Although the textiles are being repurposed, it is not enough to mitigate the extreme waste and environmental burden created.

So what is there to do other than giving all our spring cleaning bags and trash to Goodwill and thrift stores? Well, fret not, there are still many ways that are just as easy as dropping dozens of bags off at Goodwill.

The first step is to look at what local charity shops there are. For example, right over on Park Row street at the Pumpkin house in Brunswick is a beautiful consignment store called Estilos. I’ve been shopping at Estillos for years, so I know the importance and delight of shopping small and local but still second-hand.

However, they are going above and beyond what a regular consignment store would do. Instead of giving back the clothes they don’t want to buy to the seller, they drop off the remaining clothes at a charity drop box right behind Hannafords. The clothes from the drop box go to people who need clothing and food assistance.


Another place to donate could be your local shelter, whether that be a Domestic Violence shelter (who are often in need of baby clothes, blankets, or warm clothing), Homeless Shelter, Refugee Shelter, Teen Center, or a Health organization (like the Epilepsy Foundation donation bin in Freeport). All it takes is one Google search to donate more ethically.

Although donating clothes locally to charity organizations does not solve climate change, it still creates ethical change for those around us while slowing down the fashion industry. Donating to charities will ensure that the clothes will be used instead of resold at a higher price and ensures that the clothes will not immediately end up in a landfill.

Donating clothing and other items might seem small, but you can help make the world a little better for everyone living in it by doing your part.

Libby Boutin is a student at Bowdoin College.

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