Home Arts & Entertainment The benefits of buying local non-profit secondhand apparel

The benefits of buying local non-profit secondhand apparel

A doonation stand set up in front of Achievement House. Photo by Alena Stanley

Secondhand shopping, or “thrifting,” is an environmentally-conscious form of purchasing items such as clothes, furniture and books.

Achievement House SLO is an example of a local, non-profit organization which provides onsite access to this option.

Achievement House is a private, non-profit organization with several locations lining the Central Coast, including one near Cuesta’s main campus on Cuesta College Rd. The organization offers a collection of garments, home decorations, plants and more that are entirely donated.

This allows Cuesta College students, and community members alongside the Central Coast, access to secondhand shopping.

According to the Berkeley Economic Review, secondhand shopping began in the United States during the late 18th century, and grew to be a respected business practice by the 1920s. As the industrial revolution expanded, and factories were producing excess waste in textiles, tools and other amenities, these items began trickling down to pawn shops, or resales. By the late 1900s, secondhand shopping became a go-to for individuals across the U.S. looking to purchas apparel or other items. 

There are more than 25,000 resale, consignment, or not-for-profit resale stores across America as of 2023, according to the United States Census Bureau. The demand for thrifted attire continues to grow, with about 20% of the fashion industry being secondhand.

Secondhand shopping brings various environmental benefits with it, including the removal of profit-driven fast fashion sweatshop organizations. This in turn leads to a reduction in fast-fashion waste.

Fast fashion is a form of shopping and apparel that in recent years has grown considerably within the industry. Fast fashion’s appeal comes from its extremely cheap prices, and the speed in which new clothes are produced based on current fashion trends.

Mass-produced apparel in a new sale outlet. Photo by Artificial Photography

According to the University of George Washington, many wholesale fashion brands outsource their clothes production to countries with minimal oversight in the development and creation process. As of 2021, less than 2% of employees in the fast fashion industry worldwide make a liveable wage. Due to this outsourcing and minimal pay, fast fashion clothing is often priced extremely low, incentivizing cost-conscious consumers.

Purchasing second hand discourages the fast fashion industry, and boosts the economy in the other direction. For example, spending $7 on a t-shirt at a thrift shop is $7 the fast fashion industry does not receive. Achievement House SLO offers this availability to Cuesta College students, Central Coast citizens and anyone else in the area who visits their business.

With a vast inventory of books, games, clothes (including work clothing such as nursing scrubs or military attire) and more, it is a convenient second hand option. There are a total of 18 thrift, resale, or consignment stores in the San Luis Obispo area, and they all accept donations from anyone looking to let go of items big or small.

Approximately half of the book and gaming collection available at Achievement House SLO. Photo by Alena Stanley

Another sizable environmental impact of the fashion industry is the amount of waste it fabricates. In 2015, United States citizens unpacked 21 billion pounds (equivalent to 29,000 Empire State Buildings stacked on top of one another, or 184.8 trillion elephants) of textiles and clothing in landfills, equalling the amount of CO2 emissions released by 42,000 cars in one year.

Clothing selection offered at Achievement House SLO. Photo by Alena Stanley

Thrifting minimizes waste, and gives clothing that could otherwise end up in landfills a new shelf life. Achievement House is a place to begin or continue the journey of shopping resale.

“It’s nice to know you’re getting great clothes at Achievement House or any thrift shop,” said Serah Basham, a Cuesta student who shops regularly at Achievement House.

“But it’s also nice to know you’re doing something for Planet Earth, too.”