Is It Okay To Buy Non-Ethical Brands Secondhand?
March 12, 2019
As an ethical blogger and proponent of secondhand shopping, I’ve battled with this self-imposed question: “is it okay for me to buy non-ethical brands secondhand?” I go back and forth on this and have a few criteria I’ll stand by but, ultimately, the answer is: YES.
Let me explain why.
When buying new, I will always only buy from an ethical brand. Period. I believe in ensuring that workers are paid fairly, the materials are as organic as possible (& in turn the farmers are paid well), and the end product is as clean for the environment as possible. However, recently I’ve been even more particular when choosing to purchase from an ethical brand. For example, I’ve purchased a lot from Reformation in my past because I love their style and find their aesthetic to align well with mine the best. But most of the products I’ve gotten from them require dry cleaning because the fabric used is rayon. Dry cleaning your clothes is probably the worst thing you can do for the environment with your clothing, so I now strive to only purchase natural fabrics that don’t harm the environment when washing (obviously this isn’t always easy or doable depending on the type of item, but it’s a start at least). So just deciding to choose an ethical brand without digging deeper doesn’t always align with my new desires.
Now when it comes to purchasing secondhand, that item had already been bought from an individual directly (presumably) from the brand. They did support that brand by choosing to spend their money there and now they are selling that item for a multitude of reasons. Why should I buy that product? In an ideal world, our wardrobes would only be filled with ethical brands, in all neutral tones, and we’d be singing Kumbaya whilst chanting around our room in our sustainable yoga pants. Not ideal and not realistic.
When we go thrifting, most thrift stores don’t have a lot of ethical brands in them. Most often than not they never have any ethical brands (that’s where the beauty of Poshmark comes into play). So, if we talk about the benefit of secondhand shopping the main goal is to keep clothes off of landfills.
Most often than not, charity shops have too many donations to handle and ultimately have to either turn away donations or dump excess in landfills. By buying secondhand, you have an ability to keep clothes out of landfills and looking beautiful on your body. The #1 question you should ultimately ask yourself when you want to buy an item (new or secondhand) is:
“Will I wear this more than 30 times and does it make my heart sing?” Do you really need the item or could you live without?
I tend to scour thrift shops and Poshmark with the goal of getting a secondhand item that is also ethical, but sometimes there are pieces that pull at my heart strings at reasonable prices and I welcome them into my wardrobe with open arms and an intent of wearing them as many times as possible! It’s okay to do this! I’m not perfect by any means and I don’t want everyone to feel the pressure to only purchase new/ethical 100% of the time – it’s not possible.
Another reason why only buying ethically might be difficult to do is because of cost. Eddie and I had a great conversation about this recently and I’ve seen a lot of conversation about this on social media over the past few years. There is definitely a privilege to shopping ethically. I recently went looking through a brand I love’s site where they had some (very simply-designed) pieces listed at $270 which is outrageous and unaffordable by most consumers looking for that particular item. Being able to afford ethical clothing is something I feel very lucky to do but I cannot speak for everyone nor can I speak for my bank account all of the time! Secondhand shopping is a brilliant way to get your shopping fix whilst doing your part for the planet.
Old Wool & the Gang Jumper (knit by my mum!)
& Other Stories Wrap Dress (secondhand from Poshmark)
Veja X Madewell Shoes (secondhand from Poshmark)
What do you think? Do you agree with this? I’d love to hear your take on shopping as ethically and sustainably as possible!