The Gift of Thrift

At this point, everyone is familiar with the catch-cry “Reduce, reuse, recycle”. It has been written, read and said so many times that its reuse is becoming somewhat ironic. Yet, given the UN’s April declaration that not enough is being done to combat climate change, the need for sustainable living has never been greater.

The textile and clothing industry has a huge impact on the environment around the world. The reliance on workers and factories in developing countries means that often the production of these items is undertaken with little to no concern when it comes to environmental sustainability, requiring and producing a horrific list of chemicals. All linens are treated with formaldehyde, most other fabrics are treated with bleach. Huge quantities of clothing dyes run into and pollute rivers while nylon manufacturing pumps nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide) into the sky. Not even natural fibres are without their detriments; cotton is the most pesticide intensive crop in the world. It would be great if we didn’t need clothes but Adam and Eve put paid to that a little while back so we may have to look at other options. Perhaps recycled clothing is a possible avenue for sustainable living. And where might one find such clothes?

For decades, thrift shops have been a bastion of counter-culture; consigned to a motely crew of retro-philes, savvy pensioners and big-game antique hunters. This changed drastically in 2012, when rapper Macklemore somehow squeezed an anti-consumerism message into the self and wealth obsessed world of pop culture. His song “Thrift Shop” shattered the barrier that had been holding many people back from “thrifting”. If you’re not one of the 500 million people who have already watched it on YouTube, then it might be worth it just to marvel at the effect one icon can have; in the sort of reversal you only see in fashion, counter-culture became pop culture overnight.

Those living in Sydney – and near the hipster epicentre of Newtown especially – are spoilt for choice when it comes to buying clothes sustainably. There are dozens of stores filled with millions of skirts, shirts, shoes, and shorts simply waiting for the environmentally conscious bargain-hunter to come along. These clothes reduce the impact of the clothing industry on the environment, come as cheap as they get, and now – thanks to a shift in pop-culture Feat. Macklemore – won’t draw odd looks. Never has there been an easier way to begin your journey towards being more environmentally conscious.

You don’t even have to buy from thrift shops to begin living more sustainably; donating is just as worthwhile. That replacement pair of runners that were the catalyst for finding the lost pair, those old Hawaiian shirts from Bali and even the star-spangled shirt from China can all be given a second life. If you’re not already donating old clothes to charities such as St Vincents, the Salvation Army (with which Newington has close ties) and the Red Cross, then there’s no better time than now. The collection bins are never far away with some sitting just on the other side of Stanmore station as well.

So, unleash the savvy, fashionable, charitable, environmental warrior within and dive into the world of thrift shopping, you never know what you might find.