A friend recently challenged me again on the whole thrift/consumer debate: does thrift shopping simply encourage consumerism?
It’s an interesting conversation. The argument is that since you’re paying peanuts for an item, you buy it even if you’re never going to actually use it. Or you buy more than you really need because you can. These arguments can be made for more than simply thrift shops – shopping at dollar stores or discount stores like Walmart, for example, could lead to over-consuming too.
I do not disagree with this. I’ve been guilty more than once of making unnecessary purchases simply because it was “too good a deal to pass up”. The truth is that if we are truly concerned about over-consumption (and we should be) then we should limit all of our shopping, whether it’s cheap or not.
Still, at the end of the day, you sometimes have to buy stuff. Your clothes wear out. You break things or lose things that you simply need. So my feeling is, that if I have to purchase something, I should purchase it from a place that is doing good in the world. Most thrift shops support charities that help people in need either locally in your community (like the Salvation Army, for example) or in places of need around the world (like Mennonite Central Committee.)
This same principle guides me as I choose to shop Fair Trade or to support local artisans and small businesses in my neighbourhood. It is why I buy my apples, berries, squash, potatoes, cider and juice at Willow View Farms – a small scale farm here in Abbotsford.
It’s why I choose to buy gifts from Ten Thousand Villages or local crafters, drink merlot from Mt. Lehman Winery and craft beer from one of the dozens of local breweries (that seem to be breeding like rabbits.)
A purist might challenge me on my “need” to drink coffee, wine or beer, to eat meat or to purchase material gifts at all. It’s true, I don’t “need” to consume any of those things but I do so because I like them and so when I make the choice to consume, I try to do so by supporting charities and businesses that are local and/or are doing good in the world.
Where do you come out on the debate?