Beth Dieckhoff is a volunteer at the Assistance League Thrift Shop in Fullerton but she was just a regular customer when she found the perfect skirt to accompany her on her trip to France. She spent two weeks wearing that skirt all over France and when she returned, she donated it back to the Assistance League with the hope that the skirt could live another life with someone else.
For so long, the fashion industry has fed into the business model known as ‘fast fashion’ which refers to the rapid mass production of trendy styles made from inexpensive, low-quality materials.
As new styles premiere on runways during fashion week, well-known brands are quick to make them available for cheaper prices in their stores, but these quick turnovers raise the question of how ethical these practices are.
At first look, it seems like a quick and affordable way for everyone to keep up with the industry’s constantly-changing trends but it comes at a cost that is detrimental to the environment.
Fashion production comprises 10% of total global carbon emissions according to Business Insider. Some of its environmental impacts include the emission of greenhouse gases, the depletion of non-renewable sources, and the use of large amounts of water and energy. Synthetic textiles like polyester and nylon take hundreds of years to biodegrade, if ever. These fibers end up contaminating water sources and other environmental habitats.
According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2018, “Currently, total greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production, at 1.2 billion tonnes annually, are more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined. By some estimates, sector emissions are expected to rise by more than 60% by 2030.”
Another ethical concern of fast fashion is the labor practices employed in production. According to The Guardian, the ability of brands to sell clothes for such affordable prices is due in part to their exploitive labor practices. Companies seek out low-cost labor in other countries where people are willing to work for very little pay, and in some cases, these employees are children.
Awareness of these environmental and social issues has inspired people to make alternative shopping choices. For example, some have embraced the trend of shopping at thrift stores and upcycling old garments.
“I think younger people are hugely aware of the environment that they’re inheriting. They are more aware of their carbon footprint,” Dieckhoff said.
Dieckhoff has seen many different people with varying needs and tastes come into Fullerton’s Assistance League Thrift Shop. Along with the thrill of possibly finding a special item, Dieckhoff is glad to see people shopping sustainably even if they might not realize it.
The Assistance League has 120 chapters across the nation and is completely volunteer-run. Their mission is to address the needs of local families and children.
The items they sell are donated by members of the community. The profits made are put into programs that the Assistance League has created to benefit Fullerton’s families and children.
“People like the fact that their money stays local,” Assistance League volunteer Carol Bosman-Anderson said. “If you’re supporting our chapter of the Assistance League, the money stays right here in north Orange County.”
The Assistance League Thrift Store is one of the many thrift stores in Fullerton. Others include Mustard Market, Zion Thrift Shop, and many more.
Thrift shops are a sustainable option for people who want to combat climate change and support local community organizations.
The Assistance League Thrift Shop is located at 233 W Amerige Ave.