Did you go through a closet purge or decluttering frenzy to start the new year? Most of us have dropped off bags of clothing culled from our closets over the years to the local Goodwill or Salvation Army and felt pretty good about giving our clothes a second life. But how much of a green good deed have we done if we don't also make an effort to BUY clothes secondhand as well? 


Buying one used clothing item reduces its carbon, waste, and water footprints by 82%.  Getting more people to buy secondhand clothing will also help destigmatize the idea of used clothing and get more items recirculating in our economies and closets.  

Americans buy five times more clothing than they did in the 1980s. The amount of clothes that charities and thrift stores receive has doubled over the past 15 years because people are parting with their pants and shirts way sooner and much more frequently than they used to. Most charities and thrift stores can only sell about 10 – 20% of donated or incoming clothing – the rest are typically too dirty, worn, out of style, or just too much for them to handle.

Buying secondhand is about more than just finding amazing deals on your favorite brands. It’s about shopping with intention, rejecting throwaway fashion culture, and standing for sustainability. These days there are so many easy ways to shop and care for secondhand clothing. Another benefit is that most are run by non-profits and proceeds help support causes such as job training for marginalized populations, hospice or cancer research, youth programs, and more.

Physical Stores



  • ThredUp – I recently tried out this online marketplace; I sent in a bag of my nicer clothing items, and after it was evaluated was offered about $10 (which was much lower than I expected but better than nothing). I also browsed online and found a gently used sweater, blouse and cardigan that I ordered (see photo). The clothing came clean and in great condition, and the whole experience was so convenient as it saved me trips to multiple thrift stores!
  • TheRealReal, Poshmark, Tradesy, and other websites offer a convenient platform to buy and sell used designer and name-brand items.
  • Buy Nothing Groups – I have been a member of my local Buy Nothing group on Facebook for 2+ years now and have been able to give away all sorts of items to neighbors (books, furniture, even rain gutter covers). I have received many items my household uses pretty often – a slow cooker, a coffee bean grinder, and our sourdough starter! Children’s clothing is a common gift on these groups – kids grow out of clothes so fast, so sharing secondhand clothing is a great way to save money and resources.
  • NextDoor, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, EBay – all of these online platforms make it easy to buy and sell used goods, including clothing, furniture, and more.
  • Many brands now have their own used clothing lines – check out Patagonia’s Worn Wear and Levi’s Secondhand


Repair or Refashion

  • DIY tutorials – check out these helpful guides or just do a simple Google or Youtube search for phrases like “how to fix a jacket zipper” or “how to remove grass stains” to get your garment looking good as new!
  • Support your local cobbler or tailor – these skilled craftspeople can help repair your shoes and clothing or help make adjustments so that clothes fit better and can stay in your outfit rotation longer too. Check out the boots (see photo) that one of our SCOCO volunteers has had for years – she recently got the soles replaced and boots polished, and now they look like new!


Final thoughts for a conscious closet:

  • Maintain the value in our existing clothes as much as possible – pay attention to care labels, line dry when possible, and fold things that may stretch if stored on hangers.
  • Either use the item for as long as possible or find the best market for resale, whether that’s online or at a local thrift shop. Consider if there are crafters who may want unsellable things for upcycling.
  • Support the secondhand ecosystem - wear the heck out of your secondhand finds and tell everyone you bought them secondhand. This helps further destigmatize secondhand fashion and makes the experience fun and relatable. Don’t buy new trend pieces that don’t suit your long-term style, especially when they’re made out of cheap polyesters and other synthetics.
  • Closing the loop - if buying new, check out brands and initiatives like Eileen Fisher’s RENEW program, which remakes some of their older garments into new designs, or Reformation, which incorporates rescued deadstock fabrics.


Calculate your closet carbon footprint and check out more tips to green your closet



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