Andrea Rondeau column: Thrifting and donation bins: don’t muck up a good thing

I’m a big fan of thrift store shopping.

I love heading in to one of my favourite second-hand shops and hunting through the racks for treasure. In the Cowichan Valley we are very fortunate to have a relatively large number of really good thrift stores to choose from, where the clothes are clean and properly sorted, with the inevitable junk (clothes too stained, torn or otherwise wrecked to wear) removed.

I can also feel pretty virtuous about indulging in my love of clothes. First, many of the shops are run by various charities, so my cash is going to a good cause. Second, the clothing is inexpensive, so I’m not spending a fortune that I don’t have. Third, I’m giving the clothes a second useable life, and in a world where fast fashion has people discarding clothing by the boatload in an entirely unsustainable manner, this is important to me.

Even many of the clothes we take to be recycled as fabric (rather than re-sold at a thrift store) don’t end up being recycled at all, for a myriad of reasons I won’t get into here. So this is a concrete way I can help keep some things out of the waste stream. And, of course, when I buy something second hand I’m not contributing to the creation of still more new items. It puts an emphasis on the vital reduce and re-use part of the well-known slogan.

My thriftiness predates the recent explosion in popularity of thrifting, as it’s become known on social media. It’s a trend I hope continues and expands, a counterpoint, if you will, to the trend of buying more and more and more items of cheap, disposable clothing. Because people do get rid of this of stuff post-haste. Not only does it often not last, unless you’re a serious hoarder, you couldn’t possibly keep up with the cycle of buying.

Having so much is a really recent phenomenon. Even when I was a child (no, it wasn’t that long ago), we did not have a lot of clothes. A few pairs of pants, tops and shorts, maybe a dress or two. It definitely wouldn’t have filled a walk-in closet, which for many people now is the norm.

We’re seeing some of the downside of our disposable culture intertwined with a desire re-use right here in our own backyard. In Wednesday’s edition we brought you the story of the problem of people leaving heaping piles of donated clothing outside of collection bins. This negates the whole purpose, as anything left out for any length of time won’t be good for anything. And with so many alternatives — including home pick-up and just taking it to a local thrift outlet — it’s infuriating to see something good foiled by people’s thoughtlessness.

Smarten up.

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