Why Saving for Clothing is a More Sustainable and Affordable Shopping Option

Recycling is spreading across generations and communities like Flagstaff, Arizona, with a thriving line of thrift stores. Ranked at the top of any list for class and quality is the non-profit Cedar Closet Thrift Shop. Run by volunteer members of the Assistance League of Flagstaff, it is open three days a week Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Located at 2919 North West Street, parking can be a challenge, especially when the store opens on Thursdays. So, is it worth it? The answer is a resounding yes!” Ruth Loomis, longtime Flagstaff resident and frequent customer, said, “I’ve been going to Cedar Closet since it opened on Cedar Ave. The quality and price of the merchandise is always excellent; rips, stains or missing buttons on clothes. Several of my friends also happily shop there. And friendly talking; you can barely count the smiles from the all-volunteer staff.

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Each week, the Cedar Closet features a new, boutique-like arrangement of its furnishings and decor. It’s thanks to member Jayne Clark and her talented team who come in every Sunday to redesign the store. I asked her if she was a retired interior designer and she replied, “No, dental hygienist! When I was little, every time we cleaned the house, my mother made us rearrange the furniture, so I grew up doing that. You’ll often find a specialty section for holiday, seasonal, western, or back-to-school apparel, including NAU apparel.

The Flagstaff Relief League runs nine philanthropic programs that serve women, children, veterans, seniors, and the homeless. They donate over $200,000 a year to the great Flagstaff community each year, most of which comes from Cedar Closet proceeds.

Several other nonprofit thrift stores exist in Flagstaff that serve to help the community.

  • Sharon’s Attic located at 1926 N. Fourth Street uses its proceeds to fund Sharon’s Manor, a transitional housing community for victims of domestic violence and their children, in addition to providing clothing and essentials to their patrons. They are open Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Wednesday they close at 3 p.m.
  • The Society of St. Vincent DePaul operates a thrift store at 2113 N. East Street in Flagstaff. Proceeds fund families in need on a case-by-case basis, in partnership with the local Roman Catholic Church, San Francisco de Asis. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Hodgepodge Thrift Store at 452 N. Switzer Canyon is operated by Northland Hospice and Palliative Care, a nonprofit organization. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Thrift for Goodness Sake at 2 South Beaver benefits the Sunshine Rescue Mission and Hope Cottage which helps address homelessness in Flagstaff. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Habitat Restore, operated by Habitat for Humanity of Northern Arizona, is located at 2016 N. 4th Street and may be your best place to donate and purchase used furniture and appliances. Their profits help build affordable housing in Flagstaff. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Goodwill Industries operates three stores in Flagstaff: one at 1416 East Route 66 in Albertson’s former store, one just west of the Flagstaff Mall, 4308 E. Route 66, near JC Penney, and soon at 701 South Milton Avenue in the old Barnes and Noble Building. Their stores are part of a national network supporting Goodwill Industries, a non-profit agency dedicated to helping people end poverty through education, training and employment.
  • Faithworks at 2707 N. 4th Street, #E3 is Flagstaff’s newest addition to local Thrifting. They are open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Savers, a for-profit thrift store run by a private company, Value Village, is located just east of the Flagstaff Mall and is perhaps the most expensive thrift store in town. They advertise that a portion of their profits are donated to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff non-profit organization.

The typical thrift store customer can be thought of as someone unlucky, low-income, or unable to afford to shop at full retail establishments. This picture is changing, with more middle and upper class people choosing to save. What’s going on? Everyone loves the thrill of hunting and finding treasure for a tenth of its original cost. But it’s also a conscious choice to be part of the solution to help the environment.

According to a 2019 article by McKinsey Sustainability “for every five garments produced, the equivalent of three end up in landfill or incineration each year. On average, consumers wear clothes 36% fewer times than 15 years ago. If the number of times a garment is worn were doubled on average, greenhouse gas emissions would be 44% lower. Globally, customers lose up to $460 billion every year by throwing away clothes they could still wear. Their research continues to articulate “The process of producing clothing uses a large amount of energy. Every piece of clothing you wear has gone through a complex manufacturing process that uses a large amount of electricity, water and other energy sources. Recycling clothing saves energy by reducing or eliminating the need to make materials from scratch. Likewise, when you buy recycled clothing, you play a role in reducing the volume of “fast fashion”.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics considers people employed as thrift store clerks to have “green jobs.” It takes at least four hundred gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make a t-shirt and eight hundred gallons for a pair of jeans.

Savings is also a growing form of tourism. Do a search on YouTube and you’ll find videos of family savings trips alongside beach vacations. It’s become a thing for girlfriends to choose a city like Flagstaff with an array of thrift stores and great restaurants and plan a trip to do business by day and spend their money on fine dining at night. A Florida-based website that I came across in my research advertises Thrifting Bus Tours.

Suzanne Carillo, Professional Thrifter and Etsy Seller ([email protected]) based in Toronto, Canada, was kind enough to allow me to interview her about her perspective on the evolution of savings.

1. Over the past few years, I’m thrilled that savings have taken off by leaps and bounds among younger generations. There is no longer any stigma associated with thrift or thrift stores and that is great news for the environment. My two nieces are experts at noting all the latest trends in second-hand fashion.

2. There are so many good reasons to buy thrift stores. Of course, it’s easy on your wallet. It helps the environment. Some thrift stores support local charities. Thrifting offers choices you may not have considered. It encourages creativity. It helps you develop your own personal style. Once you catch the *savings virus*, you’ll quickly become addicted and wonder why you ever bought retail.

3. Overconsumption ruins the only home we have. There is no plan B when the earth becomes a huge pile of garbage. The only way forward is to reduce consumption and use what is already there. Buying second-hand first is the best choice to ensure that future generations will always have a home.

At Cedar Closet, we’re seeing younger and younger shoppers having fun creating their own fashion statements. We have so many high-quality gifts that year-round sales often feature clothes at fifty cents a piece. And when you get bored of this look, give it back and choose something new! There is also a shop for designer clothes and handbags for a fraction of their cost on eBay or other resale sites.

Savings includes more than clothes. You can find linens, household items, artwork, craft materials, baskets, and plenty of furniture and small appliances to furnish a student apartment. We can’t forget the children’s toys and clothes, enough to keep grandma popular without breaking the bank.

Flagstaff is also home to many antique and vintage stores, but that’s an article for another day. Bottom line, not only can you find beautiful mountain scenery, cool temperatures, and great restaurants, but Flagstaff is now the place to “Thrift” if you understand my drift.

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