So You Think You Can Thrift?

A Guide to Responsible Thrifting

“Do you wanna go thrifting this weekend?” is a question frequently asked by and to Gen-Zers across the country, to whom thrifting is ubiquitous to grabbing lunch or catching a movie. A 2023 resale report by the online consignment and thrift platform “thredUP” found that 83% of Gen Z have shopped secondhand or “are open to” hitting up thrift stores, as opposed to malls, the next time they get bit by the shopping bug. 

Thrifting has long existed as an affordable avenue for buying apparel and homegoods, but the popularity it has gained among younger generations has shed light on some downsides that contradict its reputation as a sustainable practice. 

“It’s not that sustainable, believe it or not. It’s not zero waste,” said Daniela Uribe, a senior environmental studies major and environmental science minor, who works as a sustainability specialist within the Office of Sustainability. While donating clothes may feel like the most sustainable option, only about 15% of donated clothes are reused, with the remaining 85% ending up in landfills. However, being an informed thrift shopper can establish sustainable consumption habits that may reduce the amount of clothes that are prematurely trashed.  

“Thrifting provides a good option for being less guilty about changing your style,” said Lauren Crane, a sophomore politics major and environmental science minor. Crane is also a sustainability specialist in the Office of Sustainability, whose annual thrift pop-up is happening Feb. 29 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Privett Plaza, on the day of publication.

The Office of Sustainability hosts thrift pop-up events where they take the clothing from the donation bins they provide in the basements of USF’s residence halls, and lay them out on tables at Privett Plaza for students to comb through and find secondhand goods. The event is entirely free and students are encouraged to bring additional donated clothing to add to the heaps of  thrift items. However, Crane and Uribe, alongside other organizers from the office, have found that a large sum of the donated clothing is not fit for being reworn. 

“A lot of it is basically trashed garments [students] don’t want to throw away, or it’s more convenient for them to put in those bins,” said Crane. “I think it makes thrifting a little bit difficult for people sometimes, when so many of the items are so trashed or unwearable. It discourages people from trying.” she said. 

To keep thrifting sustainable, and to be more aware about your own shopping habits, here are a few tips to stay thrifty without being shifty: 

  • Mend It Before You Send It 
    • If you find a tear in a piece of clothing, consider sewing it up before shipping it off to donation. Mending a piece of clothing takes little sewing skills and is actually a lot easier than you might think. Picking up a needle and thread can also serve as an introduction to a new hobby and allow for some creative expression while prolonging the life of your garment.
  • Think Before You Grab  
    • If a piece of clothing catches your eye, consider how much you would actually wear it before taking it home. “A lot of people grab everything or anything they see… and that’s not conscious consumerism,” said Crane. While it may seem easy enough to redonate the item later, it is better to take only what you would actually wear on a regular basis. So put down that t-shirt with the funny saying, and stick to what you would strut. 
  • Mix Frugality with Fun 
    • Thrifting isn’t restricted to shops. Consider throwing a “thrift party” with your friends where you come together and exchange donatable items with each other, and use it as an opportunity to have fun while refreshing your wardrobe for the glamorous price of zero dollars. Doing so keeps the items out of donation bins, and what’s better than shopping from the closets of your most stylish pals? 
  • Don’t Haste to Make Waste 
    • In the case you have some clothing that is torn beyond repair, or goods that are no longer usable — they are not fit for thrift. A simple Google search or call to your neighborhood’s Recology line can make a huge impact on redirecting your waste to the right place. If it ends up in a second-hand shop, it’s just as good as going to a landfill. Being conscious about the state of your donated items can help mitigate the climate impact that your items may have. 

For more insights on other topics related to sustainable practices, check out the Office of 

Sustainability’s student blog page at https://usfblogs.usfca.edu/sustainability/  and follow @sustainabilityusfca. 

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