Editorial: Find bargains, help the community and save the environment by shopping thrift stores

Lisa Yates @Lisa_editor

The day after Thanksgiving – Black Friday – is typically the busiest shopping day of the year. On this day, most major retailers open extremely early, often at 4 a.m., or earlier, to offer special promotional sales to kick off the Christmas season.

For example, my daughter picked up a 42" flat screen TV for around $200, two years ago on Black Friday. Of course she had to stand in a long line at Walmart, before 4 a.m.

If this doesn't sound like fun to you, consider shopping at thrift stores where you can find bargains all year long.

Thrift stores aren't just for folks down on their luck – they're hip, trendy and environmentally-friendly.

Fashionistas like my former publisher Lauren de Albuquerque of Boston loves bargain shopping at thrift stores.

She finds some of the most surprising, creative and beautiful items at secondhand stores, including ball gowns for Mardi Gras events. Of course, Lauren has to have these altered to fit her tiny frame. Even with the cost of alteration, she saves hundreds of dollars off the prices of department stores.

Thrift stores are constantly receiving new merchandise so there are always new and exciting things to find. Some goods are actually new and still in their packages, overrunds from manufacturers or suppliers.

If you come across something great, don't pass up the opportunity to snatch it up because it may not be there the next day.

My ex-, a stylish Brad-Pitt-type, told me about a cool pair of leather shoes he found for only $4, at a thrift store. He took them to a shop for resoling where the repair man told him the shoes were of high quality, made by an American shoe manufacturer that is no longer in business. For less than $40, he had a new pair of one-of-a-kind shoes.

I've always donated to thrift stores, but I had never really shopped them until recently. I found a solid brass, queens-size headboard and footboard for only $19.99, while dropping off some used clothing. I was looking for a headboard, but never expected to find the perfect one at a thrift store.

That experience hooked me. Now I love hunting for interesting and unique pieces at secondhand stores. My most recent purchase was a raw silk, fully-lined, Nordstrom jacket. I paid $5 for it.

Besides the amazing bargains, I feel good shopping thrift stores knowing I'm helping worthy organizations and people in my community. It also helps the environment.

Recycling unwanted clothing reduces landfill waste as well as the amount of resources needed to produce new clothing. It lessens the waste produced by the manufacturing process, the pollutants, greenhouse gases and volatile organic compounds released into the water.

Environmental benefits include reducing the amount of pesticides used in growing cotton; reducing the amount of clothing made from petroleum products; and, reducing the amount of water needed to dye fabrics.

Nylon and polyester are made from petrochemicals. These synthetics are non-biodegradable as well. Nylon manufacturing creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 310-times more potent than carbon dioxide. Making polyester uses large amounts of water for cooling, along with lubricants which can also become a source of contamination.

Natural fibers cause problems, too. Cotton is the most pesticide intensive crop in the world. These pesticides injure and kill many people every year. Herbicides typically remain in the fabric after finishing and are released during the lifetime of the garments. The development of genetically modified (GM) cotton adds environmental problems at another level altogether.

Other materials such as leather pollute through the tanning and dyeing processes, as well as intensive farming practices.

Did you know that America throws away two quadrillion pounds of used clothing each year?

Instead of ending up in landfills, these clothes can be donated to charities, which fund employment and training programs for people with disabilities. There's also a tax benefit. These charities provide tax forms for deductions.

For me, the stigma of purchasing secondhand clothing wore off quickly when I understood just how significantly each of us can reduce the severe toll placed on the environment.

Shopping thrift stores is an easy, economical and stylish way of helping the environment and the community.

Lisa Yates is the editor at Gonzales Weekly Citizen. Follow her on Twitter @Lisa_editor.