Buying Secondhand: Good for the Wallet and the Environment
Posted by collegegreenou on November 27, 2009
By Elyse McConnell
In the world of fashion, one day you’re “in.” And the next day… You’re in a landfill. Every year, each American sends 68 pounds of clothing to a landfill.
Just like tie-dye t-shirts and MC Hammer pants, today’s styles typically end up buried (literally) before they have a chance to be “cool” again. Some of these materials will never biodegrade fully, while others leave behind the chemicals, pesticides and toxic dyes used to produce them.
Given these concerns, some American companies are working to rescue some 2.5 billion pounds of clothing otherwise destined for the landfill. A number of these companies employ people to dig through bags and bags of old clothing. Clothing in good condition is sold, bulking up the ranks of certain secondhand stores, while less stylish apparel is sent to non- industrialized nations (if you ever wondered why villagers in remote places often sport American brands, now you know).
When a culture has such an emphasis on being “in,” it can be hard on someone with a green conscience, and their wallets, to navigate the wily ways of trends, but secondhand stores can be the answer. In Athens, secondhand stores abound — whether you are looking to dress inexpensively, stylishly, uniquely or eco-friendly. Athens Underground, New-To-You Shoppe and Goodwill are sources for fall and winter fashion that suit the budget and the mind.
Athens Underground (90 N. Court St.) is a vintage shop located uptown. Down a set of steps from street-level is a relaxed atmosphere, soft blues music and a catacomb of clothing. Neatly grouped on shelves, display cases, and clothing racks are an assortment of vintage chemises, beaded dresses, fedoras, shoes, jewelry and more. The store is also full of classic fall staples like T-strap heels, neutral trench coats, faux pearls, white button-up shirts, plaid scarves and sheath dresses. They carry fur coats and leather jackets that are so central to this fall’s style. The prices were reasonable for a store stocked with hand-picked gems — like a pair of navy and orange knitted flats priced at only $3.50.
Court Street dead-ends into Carpenter Street just a few steps north of Athens Underground. Turning left on Carpenter, the looping road heads north to New-To-You Shoppe (90 Columbus Road). New-To-You is a thrift store run by the Athens County Foster Parent Association, with profits benefiting foster children by aiding with the costs of camp, instruments, sports fees and more. There is a small consignment section, but most of the items have been donated. The prices are very low and the items all seem to be in good condition. On the day that I visited, the store was disheveled by the huge amount of inventory, and noisy from several crying children, but I managed to find a sweater for $1.07. They had a large housewares section and a copious amount of purses, but finding unique clothing here was somewhat more difficult. However, their constant stock rotation means that new items appear in the store frequently — it’s just a matter of visiting often and having an eye for that perfect item.
East Carpenter Street meets up with East State Street, on which the local Goodwill store (743 E. State St.) can be found. The Athens Goodwill thrift store can be somewhat overlooked because of its location, but the shop is clean, tidy and well-stocked. Each Goodwill store is run autonomously, so the purchases made at the Athens Goodwill benefit those in this region. The store’s inventory is entirely donated, and the $3 or so paid for a sweater goes to help those that have disabilities or have experienced downsizing. Like New-To-You, Goodwill has a constantly rotating stock of apparel, some of which is new or like-new and still in style. They have frequent sales, specific to their store location. They also have some classic staple pieces, always a good buy, and tons of acid wash jeans for those wishing to relive the ’80s. What can’t be sold at Goodwill will frequently be donated to organizations that re-purpose the garments — for example, some groups turn t-shirts into cleaning rags.
With options like these that benefit local businesses and organizations, the effort to lower one’s ecological footprint isn’t a chore at all. A little luck and ingenuity is all that’s needed to find unique clothing and to divert millions of pounds of textiles a year from landfills.