Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Used Clothing and the Environment

A lot of people lately have been taking a big stand for the environment, which I think is great. One of the side effects, is that buying used clothing no longer has such a stigma attached to it. Which, I personally think is a great thing. I came from a household where I very rarely had any new clothing (and it wasn't because we were hippies). I remember one big shopping trip for new clothes before 7th grade since I would be going to public school for the first time (boy was that exhausting).

My point is, that you can get by just fine without having a ton of "new" clothes. I've found a couple great deals lately that have helped me manage to avoid buying new clothes that my active preschool boys would soon outgrow or tear to pieces. And I've also gifted some gently used clothes (it was at a baby shower, and other than not having tags, I'm not sure anyone could tell that they were used, I did get prior permission from the baby shower host).

So, how have I found decent quality used clothing for my active boys?

  1. Retail locations. A local consignment store in our area was changing businesses (to more of a drop in play area rather than consignment) and was having a huge discount. We bought several items of clothing and a game of twister for only $9! Yes, even consignment stores have clearance sections. If consignment is too pricey, your local thrift store may have better prices (although the quality can be hit or miss).
  2. Friends or family. A friend of ours is moving out of the area soon, and her son is exactly one year older than our youngest. So she happily donated a box of used clothing (and a bunk bed, oh my goodness, the kids are so excited) so that they don't have to cart it across the country with them. Although our kids don't have cousins, anyone you meet could be a possible donation source, just don't be afraid to put the notion out there. And also, don't beg or harass your friends, I mean it is free stuff, right?
  3. Garage sales. I personally have not had many free Saturday mornings (before we moved, it was always swim lessons, after moving it's been coaching soccer, and now attending T-ball practice for my oldest) but I've heard good things. The one or two times I have gone garage sale-ing, I did find some amazing deals in the wealthier areas (a huge, slightly worn wooden baby toy for $1, and a Thomas the train set of track in the package for $1) so it doesn't hurt to ask. I personally don't always have the time to stop at each sale to find one with the right sizes and sort through all that's available.
  4. Semi-annual consignment sales. This has been where most of our used clothing comes from for our kids. I have had decent success going on the first and/or last day of the big consignment sales. There is usually at least one big sale location in each major metropolitan area. They will generally have two sales, one for "winter" clothes and one for "summer" clothes. Make a list before you shop, try not to bring your kids with you, and read over their "FAQ" to find out when the discount days are, where to park, how to pay, and what their hours are.
  5. Church sales. These are generally similar to the semi-annual consignment sale, with a bit of garage sale thrown in the mix. You'll have to do some work, but the prices may be a bit better. They are often not as well advertised, so be sure to ask about them if you are new to the area.
  6. Clothing swap. This is an idea I would love to try out at our local homeschool co-op or would be a great idea for a preschool class. Have everyone in a large group bring together their un-needed or un-wanted items in good condition and sort everything by gender and size. Everyone comes with 15-20 items and leaves with either the same (or fewer, and donate the remainder to charity).
  7. Online. There are several online used clothing companies. One that's offering some great deals right now is Schoola. There's a $15 credit if you use click on the link to sign up, and then a $10 credit for creating a collection (that's $25). Free shipping starts at $25, so I only spent $0.82 on 2 pairs of pants, two jackets, and a long sleeve shirt! You can also check Craigslist for postings, ThredUP is another online used clothing retailer ($20 credit for using this link).
How does this help the environment?

Well, for one, since you aren't personally buying new clothing and throwing away the old items, you are saving the landfill. Secondly, you are saving the cotton (or polyester) and labor of manufacturing the new items. Third, with the money you save, you can make sure that all your new purchases are quality items that will last a long time and hopefully are made in the USA, or hopefully at least made using fair-trade practices. 

Of course, someone has to buy new clothing occasionally, or the cycle gets broken, but even if all you're doing is saving the landfill a few bags of clothing, I think it's a great idea. 



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