Climate Zone: Thrift shopping is kind to the planet and your wallet

Thrift stores have seen a recent rise in popularity throughout Canada. According to a survey by the Chartered Professional Accountants Canada, 42 per cent of Gen Z Canadians reported that they visit thrift stores frequently and 85 per cent of all Canadians participate in the second-hand economy. The appeal of buying items second-hand for many […]
Photo: Shane Lamarche-Silmser
Daniel Lopez, an architectural technician student, sports a vest and button-up shirt he got at thrift stores.

Thrift stores have seen a recent rise in popularity throughout Canada.

According to a survey by the Chartered Professional Accountants Canada, 42 per cent of Gen Z Canadians reported that they visit thrift stores frequently and 85 per cent of all Canadians participate in the second-hand economy.

The appeal of buying items second-hand for many comes from the discounted prices on items that are typically so expensive.

“Outerwear sweaters and heavy wool are expensive new, but thrifted and decent condition, you get a pretty good price,” said Daniel Lopez, an architectural technician student. “I have a nice, heavy-knitted Roots sweater that would’ve costed up to $120 new. At a thrift store, I got it for $13.”

There are green benefits too. When items find new homes it’s kinder to the environment. If you’re not already part of the thrifting community, here’s why you should consider joining in.

Thrift stores encourage sustainability

As the concept would suggest, thrift stores help save so many pieces of clothing, furniture, electronics and other items from being discarded into landfills.

Value Village, one of the bigger thrift store chains in Canada, sells 700 million pounds of clothing and textiles on average each year.

The effort is also shared by smaller stores too. At Plato’s Closet on Merivale Road, they take in hundreds of articles of clothing that eventually get sold.

“Some people think thrift stores have dirty, ripped clothes and there’s no point in wearing it out,” said Jaxson Kemp, a manager at the store. “I don’t think that’s fair. I think there’s a lot of good options out there.”

Inside Plato's Closet Merivale, the store is filled to the brim with old clothes looking for a new life.
Inside Plato's Closet on Merivale Road, the store is filled to the brim with old clothes looking for a new life. Photo credit: Shane Lamarche-Silmser

Thrift stores also donate clothes

Whenever thrift stores can’t sell certain items, it’s common for them to donate the clothes to other sources.

For example, Plato’s Closet Merivale donates clothes that they struggle to sell to women’s shelters.

“Even if we don’t get rid of it, we make sure that they go to someone that can use it instead of throwing it out,” said Kemp.

Older clothes shed less microplastics

The average six kilogram load of laundry sheds over 700,000 microscopic plastic fibers into wastewater.

Some ways to reduce the amount of microplastics dispensed in laundry loads include getting clothes made of natural fibers like cotton, wool and linen, washing clothes at colder temperatures and always running full loads.

It’s also worth noting that new clothes shed more than older ones, so turning to thrift stores to buy your clothes can help keep your dispensary of microplastics down.

There’s a price difference between new clothes versus thrifted

Outside of sustainability, customers can see massive price differences between new clothes versus thrifted ones.

For example, Plato’s Closet price their clothes between 50 and 70 per cent of their retail market value. The prices can get even lower when clothes find themselves in the clearance section.

You might find hidden collectibles

Many thrift stores also offer other items outside of clothing like books, electronics and furniture.

Of the other items, some can be rare collectibles unknown to a buyer until after their purchase.

“There’s a lot of collectibles you can find while thrifting that do have a pretty good resale value,” said Lopez. “I picked up this random colorful pot at a thrift store that was worth a couple hundred dollars new. I still use it.”

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