Featured Image: @thelittlemarket
Article By: Taylore Fox
A friend of mine writes a blog called Thrifts and Tangles—a guide focused on loving and caring for natural Black hair and successfully navigating a thrift store to create a cute and affordable wardrobe. She exposed me for the first time to the chaos and the magic of thrift stores, on a short trip to Boston. One of her goals was to find a good local thrift store on our sightseeing day. I had never been thrifting before, but I was up to it. Why not?
I had expectations of a cute, quaint little store with trendy clothes that basically looked just like the styles you would find in any fast fashion store in the mall. What I got instead was piles and piles of clothing dumped on a warehouse floor, mountains and plateaus of mismatched shoes. I was immediately overwhelmed, I had never seen so many clothes.
To be honest, I was a little put off at first. I would rather have just gone shopping in a mall. But the longer we stayed, the more I started to enjoy it. I wanted to find clothes that were cute and different looking and maybe vintage but also still on trend, but I realized there was something deeper in the whole thing that I didn’t really realize before. As I continued following my friend’s blog and her Instagram, I realized it had to do with living a life that was cleaner, more ethical, and more sustainable. I was inspired by the community that she took part in and I decided to do more, to learn more. After some research, I created a beginner’s guide to begin to sustainability, written by a beginner.
Step 1: Start Avoiding Plastic Materials
One surefire way to eliminate waste is to reduce the number of plastic materials that you use in your everyday life. Buying plastic materials didn’t seem so bad to me as long as I recycled them once I was done, but I learned recently that every time it’s recycled, it gets downgraded and then eventually becomes a type of plastic that’s not recyclable at all. And then what?
Most of the plastic that I use in my own home is plastic water bottles, plastic utensils, and plastic food storage containers, which eventually just turn into waste. They can be replaced by more natural materials, such as glass containers for food storage, steel water bottles, and wooden utensils.
Step 2: (Try To) Eat Less Fast Food
Sometimes we tend to think of sustainability only in regards to what we do in and buy-in for our own homes, but it also extends to what you do outside of the home. Sitting down and eating in a fast food restaurant generates waste, just like if you were eating off of the materials in your own home. When you’re able to just leave the restaurant after you’re done eating, it’s easier to forget about those materials and where they go next.
Cutting back on fast food is one way to guarantee that you reduce waste, even if it’s just a little bit at a time. Prepare your meals at home and bring them to school or work instead of buying fast food for your lunch. In addition to saving materials, you’ll save money too.
Step 3: Reuse, Reuse, Reuse
One way to guarantee that you’re not producing waste: don’t waste. That is, don’t throw away materials and reuse them instead. Like I mentioned before, fill up a stainless steel reusable water bottle instead of drinking from plastic ones. Use glass jars to store your food. Clean with cotton cloths instead of paper napkins and paper towels. Bring reusable cloth bags to the grocery store or farmer’s markets. If you refuse, you won’t waste.
Step 4: Buy Second Hand
In addition to just materials that you’ve purchased yourself, reuse can also include shopping second hand. You can clothes, jewelry, accessories, furniture, kitchen utensils, and appliances at thrift stores. Buying second hand gives these items a second life, a new home, and most importantly keeps them out of landfills when they’re thrown away.
Fast fashion brands produce new clothes rapidly, based on growing and changing trends and use tons of materials to do it. Thrift shopping allows you to add to your wardrobe or your home without breaking your bank and without increasing waste since new materials aren’t being used.
Step 5: Collect Sustainably
I’ve learned that one major key to sustainability is to avoid consuming and collecting things that you don’t actually need. Items that you purchase hastily or on impulse are more likely to become waste than if you purchase it out of necessity. Try not to buy things that you won’t actually use, that you won’t use for more than a short amount of time, or that isn’t sustainable and you can’t recycle. It will be easier to live sustainably if you prepare yourself for it.
Step 6: Research
Speaking of preparing yourself, one of the most important things to consider when adopting a new habit or lifestyle is to do as much research as you can. Research what materials are sustainable and which ones aren’t. You can also research the different recycling guidelines in your city or state to make sure you’re properly recycling your trash. Research terminology—biodegradable vs compostable products, for example. Find thrift stores in your area. Search for hashtags to find bloggers and Instagrammers who are part of the sustainable living community and get inspired. There’s a lot to learn, but just start small and keep gathering all the information you can as you go.
Step 7: Take Your Time
When you’re doing your research and beginning to make the changes to your lifestyle, keep in mind that it doesn’t have to happen all at once. Take it slow. Make small changes where you can. You don’t have to throw everything out all at once just because it’s not zero-waste. Wait until you run out of things before you replace them with sustainable alternatives. You don’t have to give up fast food completely to avoid creating waste. Just cut back a little bit at a time. You don’t have to stop wearing fast fashion altogether all at once or replace your entire wardrobe. Just incorporate thrifted items where you can. And even if you find inspiration in other people in the community, remember that they are in a different point in their journey and yours doesn’t have to look anything like theirs.
The trip to that thrift store in Boston is the first experience I’d ever had with sustainable living and my friend’s blog opened the door a little wider every day, with each Instagram story following her shopping around Savers, the beach cleanup she participated in a few weeks ago, and her new apartment tour with thrifted home decor. On my first thrift shop, I realized you had to dig a little bit to find what you’re looking for and I’m realizing that it’s worth it to dig a little deeper into my own habits and actions too.