Sifting through Eugene’s thrift scene

Goodwill provides a plethora of home decor options for students on a budget. (Phillip Quinn/Emerald)

In today’s day and age, we shop for cheap products at the cost of others without even realizing it. 

It's no secret that cheap clothing is easier on your budget, but it should make you suspicious as to why these trendy clothes are so affordable. Fast fashion may follow the latest fashion trends, but there is more than that to consider; because when blindly shopping, we don’t see the negative effects of fast fashion that jeopardize the environment, our wallets and conditions for workers. 

Fast fashion companies like H&M, Forever 21 and Zara give consumers the latest trends, yet they yield lousy products. In this market, consumers use a garment for a short time before it's worn out, or until the next trend arrives. 

This model is a catalyst for labor exploitation. Companies that produce fast fashion often employ their labor overseas where they can cut costs. The high demand for nonstop new and low-cost products motivates companies to outsource cheap labor in places where their responsibility for how workers are treated becomes someone else’s problem. 

If you are still inclined to shop for new pieces of clothing, spend your money conscientiously. You can choose products that are Fair Trade Certified, meaning they were made ethically and sustainably, and when you buy them, some money goes back to the community where they were produced. Just “seek the seal, make a difference,” as their website says. 

“Today’s global market enables – often encourages – compromise at the expense of farmers, workers, and fishermen. People stand with us to demand higher standards for everyone,” according to the organization’s website. By purchasing Fair Trade Certified products, consumers have the opportunity to participate in this movement. 

Patagonia is a popular example of a Fair Trade Certified brand in which your consumption of the brand makes a difference in the world because “every purchase is a vote,” according to the company’s website.

People should feel encouraged to quit consuming fast fashion products like H&M, Forever 21 and Zara, and start shopping for certified brands or thrifted clothing. After all, we should be more aware of where our money is going. 

Shopping secondhand positively impacts the environment, influences our social lives and makes us feel better about ourselves. Your impact on the environment is reduced because clothes are less likely to end up in landfills. According to Reader’s Digest, “Almost 100 percent of clothing and textiles are recyclable, yet 85 percent of it ends up in landfills” when they could have found a second home instead. 

Lindsay Coulter, an educator with The David Suzuki Foundation, tells Reader’s Digest that “thrifting is a great way to add to your repertoire of shopping before you consider buying something new.” 

Thrift stores offer a clear idea of where your money is going. Their social impact is positive in this way because they often support local communities. St. Vincent de Paul has numerous stores in the Lane County area for people to visit and get involved with giving back to the community simply by shopping. 

I’m sure we have all heard: reduce, reuse, recycle – so put this common phrase into practice. If we can be more cognizant of where and how we spend our money, we have the opportunity to not only do good in our community, but help communities across the world.