How Thrift Stores Make Communities Better

Thrift stores are a great way to get a unique look and maybe find high-end brands at rock-bottom prices — just ask Macklemore. But thrift stores and consignment stores aren’t just about great deals. They’re also about giving back to the community. Here’s how.

Providing Access To Lower-Income Families


If you’re making minimum wage, you can’t afford to spend $2000 on clothing every year like the average household does. And if you have kids, they’re constantly getting holes in their knees and growing out of their shoes. It’s hard to keep up even if you can afford it, let alone if you’re working with a shoestring budget.


Thrift stores allow lower-income families access to clothes, furniture, and household goods that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. We all know how mean kids can be if they see a fellow student in tattered or out-of-fashion clothes — thrift stores help kids avoid that embarrassment.


Giving Back To The Community


In addition to providing low-income families a place to shop, many thrift stores are actively involved with charity work in their local communities. Some are owned by larger non-profit organizations, and their proceeds go to funding other projects like food banks, palliative care, education grants, and similar good works.


In other cases, the thrift store uses its proceeds directly to help out in the local community. Arc Thrift Stores in Colorado, for example, operates 27 locations in the Metro Denver, Fort Collins, Greeley, Loveland, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo areas. Their proceeds go directly to enhancing the lives of individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families.


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle


Thrift stores also have a major positive impact on the environment. Did you know that the average American throws away 85 pounds of clothing every year? It’s true, and it’s worse than that. Even though 95 percent of used textiles can be recycled into industrial fiber or reclaimed rags, 85 percent of them end up in landfills anyway.


Thrift stores allow your used clothes to go to good use rather than clogging up landfills, and they allow you to buy used instead of shopping for new clothes every season. Making clothes has a substantial impact on the environment too — farming, factories, labor, shipping — and you can mitigate a lot of that by buying used.


Think Global, Act Local


Your thrift store might feel like a local store or a small chain, but you’d be surprised how big an impact it has on the global community.


Have you ever seen a photo of children in Africa or Haiti and noticed that they’re wearing a shirt from a local auto shop in the US? That’s because a huge amount of unsold goods from thrift stores in the US gets shipped overseas — almost seven billion tons of used clothing and textiles between 1999 and 2003.


Recycling unsold thrift goods is a huge industry. It’s a multi-national business worth over $1 billion a year, and it supports 17,000 jobs in the US and an estimated 100,000 in Africa alone. And it all starts at the bottom — with your decision to donate last year’s t-shirts to a thrift store rather than throwing them in a dumpster.


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