In the face of the ever-escalating climate crisis, local Charlottesville thrift stores are fighting to continue making an impact while facing the threat from large online retailers that thrived at the start of the pandemic, while college students University act through various clothing drives and build awareness
Although shopping online from the comfort and safety of one’s home tends to be more accessible and less expensive, local thrift stores and community options have a lower environmental impact that can outweigh the immediate outlay. As the second largest producer of pollution and 10% of total annual carbon emissions, the apparel industry as a whole has an important role to play in the impending climate crisis.
In particular, fast fashion – the rapid production of trendy clothing – is a major contributor to the amount of clothing produced and then discarded each year, exacerbating climate change.
Megan Young, a third-year College student and member of the University’s sustainability outreach team, said fast fashion lends itself to micro-trends and themed clothing, which can be harmful to the environment. environment.
“As fashion brands, their only goal is to make a profit, which means they’re not really interested in the quality of their clothes, but more in the quantity,” Young said. “It produces huge amounts of styles without thinking about the long-term impacts.”
Nina Burke was the manager of Uplift Thrift, a Charlottesville thrift store that closed in March. She believes shopping at second-hand clothing stores like hers is an important way to reduce individual environmental impact.
“We kind of operate in the model of a circular economy where people who have too much stuff donate it to us and then we sell it to people who need it,” Burke said. “We keep it out of the landfill, because we hardly throw anything away. Honestly, the waste generated by fast fashion and retail is staggering. »
A circular economy is one in which clothes are recycled and kept in circulation indefinitely in order to minimize clothing waste and maximize their use.
However, Uplift Thrift encountered many difficulties and struggled to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. The store closed for four months at the start of the pandemic while paying rent.
“It was really difficult, but we held on.” said Burke. “It’s only because our community is super supportive.”
The community aspect is essential to Burke’s business, and it is one of the main reasons for the warm and supportive environment that emanates from Uplift Thrift. One of the major themes of Uplift Thrift is the importance of having a safe space for everyone, especially the LGBTQ+ community. Uplift Thrift creates this safe space by providing clothing for everyone and all genders.
Since reopening, another primary focus for Uplift Thrift has been to keep procedures in place to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. This has been done by ensuring that all customers use masks, although this can sometimes be difficult to enforce.
“It’s really important to us to protect the most vulnerable people in our community,” Burke said. “Everyone who enters here is just as important as the others.”
However, as online shopping and fast fashion trends flourished during the pandemic, Uplift Thrift struggled to stay afloat despite its best efforts. Although the doors to Uplift Thrift last closed on March 25, Burke intends to continue making a difference in the community through pop-ups and community events.
Burke said University students should continue to shop secondhand at the variety of local thrift stores in the Charlottesville community.
“One of the things I loved about our resale community in Charlottesville is that we all work together rather than compete with each other,” Burke said. “We work together to attract customers and support each other.”
Another way students have reduced their carbon footprint through sustainable clothing purchases and use is through clothing swapping and driving, as well as targeted shopping.
Global Problems, Local Solutions seeks to bring about meaningful change at the local level by hosting a University-wide clothing drive in April. Third-year college student Allison McCue, co-chair of the club, is one of the leaders of the upcoming clothing drive, which she says will greatly benefit the sustainability efforts of the college community.
“We’re going to do a pop off — basically like a thrift store, but with the donations we got for people here at U.Va. might try like swapping their old clothes with new clothes their peers swapped,” McCue said. “It at least reduces purchases by a few parts, and then it also connects students within the community.”
In light of the climate crisis, Young emphasized the importance of conscious consumption to reduce one’s environmental impact.
“I think progress from perfection is my biggest thing,” Young said. “Just having an impact and making positive choices in the areas that are achievable for your lifestyle and for your life stage right now is what’s really important.”