Is Thrift Flipping Sustainable? Your Thrift Flipping Cheat Sheet!

Have you ever considered trying thrift store flipping? Flipping thrift store clothes can play a huge part in promoting a more ethical wardrobe. You can find so many hidden gems while thrift flipping and then resell used items from the comfort of your own home for some extra money.  

While thrift flipping clothes comes with its own challenges, it’s beneficial for the environment and can help reduce your carbon emissions. Flipping thrift store items can also put a little extra money in your pocket (who doesn’t love a win for your bank account AND the environment?).

IN THIS POST WE WILL COVER:
What is thrift flipping?
What Is the Difference Between Thrift Flipping and Upcycling?
Is thrift flipping ethical?
What are the pros and cons of thrift flipping?
Tips on how to thrift flip ethically and make some money

What is thrift flipping? 

Thrift flipping is the process of buying items from thrift stores in your area or online, fixing them up, and reselling them. Thrift store flipping can be a great way to make some extra money while giving a new life to used items that might have otherwise gone to the landfill. You can resell your thrift store items at garage sales, online, or through apps!

Flipping thrift store clothes is a great way to do your part in reducing the environmental footprint of the textile industry. The production, transportation, consumption, and disposal of clothing come with a heavy cost.

To start, clothing has a huge water footprint. To produce one pair of jeans, it takes 7,000 liters of water! And what’s worse, much of our clothes are manufactured in other countries where companies can take advantage of cheap labor and low labor standards where workers are sometimes exploited and treated unfairly. These clothes are then transported all the way to the USA, adding on the carbon emissions from shipping to the list.

Once our clothes are damaged or no longer fit, we throw them out and they end up in a landfill to sit for years. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in the US, we send 16 millions tonnes of textile waste to landfills every year.

Still on the fence with thrift flipping clothes? Keep reading!

What Is the Difference Between Thrift Flipping and Upcycling?

Thrift flipping and upcycling have a lot of similarities, but they are not the exact same thing! So, what is upcycling? According to UpCycleThat, it’s “the act of taking something no longer in use and giving it a second life and new function. In doing so, the finished product often becomes more practical, valuable, and beautiful than what it previously was.”

This can include taking items you already own that you might not be using and giving them a new purpose somewhere else in your home. Upcycling differs from thrift flipping because you are reusing items you might already have in a way that boosts the object's original value!

If you are looking for some upcycling ideas, here at The Eco Hub, we have tons of inspiration for how to upcycle clothes!

Tidying up concept, woman holding clothes hangers with black tags. Pin

Is thrift flipping ethical? 

Simple answer, yes and no. Thrift store flipping has been criticized for some serious ethical concerns since it has become more popular over the last few years. While, yes, by thrift flipping you are helping to reduce the environmental damage caused by the textile industry, there are some serious downsides too.

Some thrift flippers have marked up their items so much, thrifted items (which are meant to be affordable clothing options) have become financially out of reach for low-income communities. 

Sometimes, sellers will stage their items to be more attractive than they are, or mislead buyers with exaggerated listing descriptions. As a result, someone who was trying to buy a nice item at a good deal ends up getting scammed.

While these criticisms are valid, it’s important to note that this isn’t a reflection of everyone in the thrift flipping game. There are tons of reputable sellers out there who aren’t contributing to market gentrification or scams. And today, we are going to help you thrift flip ethically – the right way!

What are the pros and cons of thrift flipping?

Before we chat about how to thrift flip ethically, we need to cover the pros and cons of thrift flipping to see the whole picture.

Pros:

  1. Thrift flipping is great for the environment! You are contributing to the reuse of items that might have otherwise gone to a landfill.
  2. Flipping thrift store items can help you make some extra money. Books, silver, and china can sometimes be highly collectible if you find the right pieces.
  3. You can learn a new skill! Have you ever considered learning how to sew?
  4. It's fun! 

Cons:

  1. I wouldn’t recommend buying certain items at thrift stores. In some cases, it can be dangerous or unsanitary. Stay away from buying stuffed animals, underwear, bathing suits, electric appliances, mattresses, pillows, and children's safety equipment!
  2. You need to have patience and take your time scanning all of those racks and stores!
  3. Some thrift flippers are contributing to price markups for used clothing.
  4. Some thrift flippers might lie or exaggerate their listings to make a higher profit, so be careful when buying!

Tips on how to thrift flip ethically and make some money

Second hand wardrobe idea. Top view over woman outfit. Pin

Think before you buy!

While this might seem obvious, take your time, and have patience when thrift flipping. In other words, don’t buy just to buy! Slow fashion is thinking before you buy clothes. With thrift flipping, this means asking questions like: Can I fix and resell this item? Do I have a plan if I don’t resell it? Would I wear it myself as is?

Choose high-quality items

If you choose items with more durable fabrics, chances are they will last longer in your closet! Try to look for thicker fabrics with natural fibers like cotton and linen, denim, or faux leather. I personally find most jeans and denim fabrics hold up well.

Look at the fabric and details

This is another great reason to stick to natural fibers while thrift flipping. Synthetic fibers (even second-hand ones) release microplastics into the waterways and bioaccumulate in sea animals – like fish and seabirds. So, stay away from polyester and read the labels! This means knowing about fabrics like modal, lyocell, jute, etc.

Another good tip is to carefully examine the garment for missing buttons, broken zippers, etc. While these kinds of items can sometimes be the best to thrift flip (if you can find a replacement button or zipper) if you can’t, these might be harder to resell.

Buy from smaller thrift stores when possible

This is a touchy topic I have talked about before. Some larger thrift stores like Goodwill are structured in a way where the CEO and higher-up employees earn a massive paycheck, while the staff barely make minimum wage. Smaller thrift stores (like these ones in San Diego) are the way to go!

Be realistic and transparent

Keep your item descriptions real and your prices fair. While you can find hidden gems to resell while thrift flipping, the goal is not to trick people. If thrift flipping loses credibility as a movement, that is a lose-lose for everyone. Be transparent with your potential buyers about the item’s flaws, defects, and imperfections. BE REAL!

Shop and sell your used items at online thrift stores

Wondering what to do with your clothing donations? There are TONS of apps and sites where you can buy and resell your thrifted treasures. To buy thrifted items, Swap Society, Goodfair, and Swap.com are great options. To resell your thrifted finds, Depop, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace are my personal favorites.

Host a clothing swap party

I LOVE hosting clothing swap parties! Clothing swap parties are where you invite guests to bring their gently used items to swap with each other. This works for thrift flipping too! If your friends or family are also into thrift flipping, ask them to bring their favorite finds over and see if you can make any trades. Remember to ask your guests to bring their own reusable shopping bags!

Be safe and smart!

You knew this was coming! When reselling used clothing items, be smart when meeting potential buyers in person. Choose spots in high-visibility settings like at the mall or a restaurant. Avoid putting your personal address and info out there! Better to be safe than sorry.

Final thoughts on thrift flipping

It takes a lot of energy and time to sort through racks and racks of items. So, go easy on yourself and have patience when thrift flipping. Remember that the first R in the five R’s of zero waste is ‘refuse’. 

Be mindful and do your research and only buy items to flip if they meet a certain standard you have set for yourself (like good quality fabric). 

When reselling your items, be honest and transparent with your buyers! 

Take advantage of all the fun different ways you can resell and trade your items, from online to in-person at a clothing swap party!

Need some more ideas? Did you know we have a ton of guides here on The Eco Hub that will help you get rid of your old stuff responsibly including:

If you found this post helpful, please help someone by sharing this article – sharing is caring 🙂!

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