Like a lot of girls, I love to shop. As a consumer, it is important to be conscious of the impacts of your clothing purchases. It is estimated that over 90% of the clothing purchased in the United States comes from abroad (ABC News). A sweater that you notice hanging on the rack or a pair of shoes you come across at a department store might have traveled thousands of miles, using up energy and polluting the planet with coal on its journey to reach you. The latter motivated me to become the type of consumer who primarily purchases consignment clothing. Investing in this type of consumption particularly interested me as an environmentalist.
What is Consignment?
Consignment clothing shops sell clothes that are owned not by the shop’s owner, but by the individual who had given (consigned) the clothes to the shop for the owner to sell. Both the shop owner and the individual who donated the clothing receive a portion of the profit once the clothing items are sold.
Consignment clothing produces a significantly smaller carbon footprint. While the sweater or the pair of shoes might have first come from thousands of miles away, it most likely made itself into the consignment clothing shop after someone in the local community wore it, and then sold or donated it to the shop. The only carbon emissions associated with the sweater or pair of shoes is the fuel that it took the donor and the shopper to drive to the store. The amount of emissions would be significantly less or virtually zero if either person walked, biked, or took public transportation to the consignment clothing store.
Consignment clothing items are tremendously discounted as well. I have always found that $50 at a consignment clothing store will earn me at least three or four times more than spending $50 at a department store. Purchasing discounted items does not mean sacrificing style. A majority of consignment stores tailor to the style of the glamorous, uptown, modern woman.
The 3 R’s
While the idea of wearing something that someone else wore can be a turn off to some people, the clothing is first washed before it is placed on the racks, and the clothing must be gently used. Buying and using gently worn clothing follows one of the main principles of environmental friendliness. These clothing items, if they had not been donated or sold to the consignment shop, could have easily ended up in a landfill.
The packaging associated with brand new items often ends up in landfills as well, especially if the new clothing item is ordered online. The new clothing items can come wrapped up in a lot of plastic, tissue, etc. Gently worn clothing items purchased in a consignment clothing shop eliminate that unnecessary packaging entirely.
You can support consignment clothing shops by participating as a donor or seller. Bring your gently used, unwanted clothing items, shoes, and accessories to a consignment clothing store. You will be paid for your generosity and environmental stewardship!