how to shop second-hand online

Let’s talk shop. 

So you miss the thrift store and want to try second-hand shopping online? Great, there’s an almost unlimited market just waiting for you to dive in. But with so many options right at your fingertips, the shopping process can sometimes feel overwhelming. Unlike physical stores, online thrift stores don’t have a clear beginning and end, making it easy to miss out on hidden gems.

The following tips & tricks are designed to help you easily navigate the digital second-hand market and find more opportunities to incorporate used clothing into your wardrobe. 

WHERE TO SHOP SECOND-HAND ONLINE

First, you need to know where to look. After getting acquainted with the offerings and format of each of the following apps, you’ll be able to decide where to focus your time and monaaay.

What you’ll find: Each app has its own niche. Some offer more mainstream brands, others luxury or streetwear. Get to know each app’s “vibe” and use those observations to avoid information-overload. 

Consignment vs. direct-to-seller: Consignment means the items for sale have gone through quality control & authentication. In direct-to-seller, the seller lists and manages their items independently. This process will affect the cost of what you’re buying. Consignment typically is more expensive because it’s been vetted by a third party.  

Buy, Barter, or Trade: Apps sell their products in different ways. Bartering usually gives you a better price than buying outright. And if you decide to sell on any of these apps, trading with another seller could get you a mutually beneficial deal. 

Restocks: Second-hand stores don’t follow typical inventory. That makes striking while the iron’s hot and checking back regularly critical to finding the items you’re after. 

Poshmark – The People Pleaser 

  • What you’ll find: Caters to major brands like Madewell, Everlane, Zara as well as some sustainable brands, like Eileen Fisher and Girlfriend Collective 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Barter & Trade 
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Be cautious when buying designer brands. Unless you spend above $500, items aren’t authenticated by the app. Also, note that ‘boutiques’ are not always second-hand, so do your research before buying!

Depop – The Rebel with a Cause 

  • What you’ll find: Streetwear brands & vintage
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy, Trade & Barter
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Going in with some knowledge of obscure brands will help you navigate the app 

ThredUp – The Cool Mom 

  • What you’ll find: Popular mid-range brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Consignment 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Great for basics, but not as many interesting statement pieces 

Etsy – The Girl Who Doesn’t Wear Labels 

  • What you’ll find: Eclectic styles, hand-made clothing & vintage 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller  
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: Varies by seller 
  • Wise words: Try finding sellers you like & following them to narrow down your options

Curtsy – The IT Girl 

  • What you’ll find: Trendy styles & popular brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller  
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy & Barter 
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Not as many high-quality/long-lasting brands available 

The Real Real – The Luxe Lady 

  • What you’ll find: Authenticated luxury & designer brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Consignment 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: Yes! If an item has sold, you can sign up to be notified when it’s restocked 
  • Wise words: Pricey compare to other second-hand sites 

Lovanie – The Sustainable Sister 

  • What you’ll find: Sustainable brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Consignment 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet
  • Wise words: The site is new & in Beta testing 

HOW TO SHOP SECOND-HAND ONLINE

Unless you have incredible patience, apps are not necessarily a great place to browse. To find the right pieces, try going in with a gameplan. This will prevent you from buying things you don’t need and help you cut through the clutter. 

Brands & styles 

Go through your closet. What brands do you have the most of? Which fit you best? What styles do you wear most often? Many of these apps do not accept returns unless the item you bought is damaged. That makes it all the more important to feel confident that what you’re getting will work for you.  

Want list 

If you follow brands on IG or email, you probably have a sense of what they’re selling each season. When you spot a new item you like, copy & paste the name into any of the app(s) to see if you can find it gently used & nicely priced. You’d be surprised just how often you can find what you’re looking for. 

Search Terms 

Know the correct names of styles by doing some research beforehand and you’ll be able to weed through options more quickly. 

Size(s) 

Each of the apps lets you create a size range. To allow for some wiggle room, I recommend you set this feature to your size, slightly smaller, and slightly larger. 

Colors 

Pictures can distort colors. Always ask questions or, better yet, try to find the item on its original brand website for a more accurate portrayal. 

Read the Reviews

If a listed item is still available on its original brand’s website, read the reviews before buying. The site will have more specifics on fit and quality to help you make a better informed purchase. 

Saved Searches & Waitlists 

Some apps let you save your searches. If you’re consistently on the lookout for something, using these in-app features can save time and ensure you’re first to know if an item you want is available. 

KEYS TO SECOND-HAND SUCCESS 

Persistence 

Listings can happen at any time, so if you really want something, check in regularly.  

Know an item’s true value 

Just like you’d negotiate your salary, know what you’re buying and how much it’s really worth. What was its original price? Does it have signs of wear? How much are similar items being sold for? Factor all this in to know you’re getting a fair price. 

Shop them all 

The more apps you use, the more likely you are to know what’s available, where to get the best deal, and which app you have the most success on. 

Know your dupes

Be cautious when buying designer brands direct-from-seller. There are tons of videos out there on how to spot luxury dupes that can help you do this. If you’re looking for a fool-proof purchase, remember The Real Real and ThredUp do authenticate and perform quality checks. 

Start on Google 

If you know the name of the item you’re looking for, try searching “Item name Used” into Google’s Shopping tab. From there, you can go directly to the apps selling that specific product. 

Avoid cheap brands 

Most second-hand clothing is preloved. That makes cheap, used pieces even more likely to be pilled or damaged by the time you get them. Unless it’s a style or color you’re obsessed with, I’d say leave cheap brands in the cart. 

Like & Favorite

It’s hard to remember everything you see when browsing. Use in-app saving features to your favor. Depending on the store, you’ll be notified about sales, price drops, and if something sells.  

Okay, you’re officially ready to shop! Give these tips a shot and let me know which work best for you! 

6 simple and zero-waste swaps for your bathroom

Before I jump into the article, I want to be sure to address the matter of affordability. After all, “affordable” is a very loaded term and it means vastly different things to different people. 

Yes, truly sustainable products do cost more than their generic alternatives. And unfortunately, this does negatively impact their accessibility. The promising news is that as more people already able to afford these products make the switch, over time, costs will decrease. It’s for sure not an immediate solution, but it does offer some hope for greater access down the road. 

Where I am at in life, it is financially feasible for me to make sustainability a priority. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some initial sticker shock as I started exploring these zero-waste swaps. Even if you’re able to make sustainable switches, letting go of comfortable and convenient habits is hard. So to help, here’s the logic I used to see these products not just as purchases, but as investments in a more sustainable future. 

Higher quality ingredients – Chemical-free and biodegradable products are naturally derived and therefore better for your body and the earth 

Longevity – Many sustainable products are concentrated or purer, requiring less volume per use 

Livable wages & working conditions – More money is cycled back to the people who grow and produce these products, so they can achieve a higher quality of life 

If you’ve been hoping to switch over to a more sustainable or plastic-free bathroom routine but haven’t known where to start, this guide will help you identify which products can work for your lifestyle and budget. For every product, I’ve broken down the costs and ease of switch to help make your sustainable transition a smooth one.  

1. Zero Waste Lip Balm | Ease of switch: 9/10

Currently, I’m using a nice mint stick from Twinkle Apothecary, a woman-founded, small business based in Oklahoma. The large stick, if I recall correctly, was $12 and has lasted me more than a year. 

Mint lip balm in zero-waste, compostable packaging

The only challenge I encountered when switching to a plastic-free lip balm was adjusting to the more natural formula. As a devout Burts user, I found my lips more dry than usual at the start, but they’ve since adapted and feel very healthy. 

Buy it here: 

Twinkle Apothecary $6 

Splashe $7.99  

Zero Waste Store $12.99 

Boston General Store $14.00 

2. Stainless Steel Razor | Ease of Switch 6/10 

If you’re willing to break from your plastic pal, stainless steel razors make for a great zero-waste swap. Unlike safety razors you find at drug stores or from popular brands like Billie, the steel versions feature two blades that can be replaced an infinite number of times. 

My favorite Albatross, zero-waste razor

I purchased my three-piece Albatross razor from Package Free a year ago, and although we had a pretty rocky start, we’re now very well acquainted. What do I mean by ‘rocky’? Well, bloody. I should preface this with the fact that I’ve never been a very adept shaver. Add to that applying way too much pressure to this new razor and you have yourself a perfect little storm. 

During my initial shaves with the Albatross, I used the razor just like my cheap plastic ones. Big mistake. Because the body of the Albatross razor is heftier, applying any additional pressure pushes the blade directly into your skin. Ouch! 

But before you write this method off completely—hold on. We’re not talking ER type cuts, just little nicks, easily fixed with a bandaid. A slow learner, it’s taken me almost a year to shave cut-free but now that I have a handle on it, I truly love this product and will NEVER go back. I use it on my legs, armpits, lil mustache, and uh yah, down yonder too. I only need to change the blade every 4-6 months and each replacement costs just cents. 

Another benefit of this particular brand is Albatross’ free blade recycling program that lets you mail in used razors to be repurposed rather than trashed in landfill. But if you aren’t able to buy Albatross’ razor and use their recycling program, I advise you collect your old razors in a pill container or Altoids box, something hard and difficult to puncture. When the container is full, put the entire thing in the trash. Never in recycling and never uncovered; the tiny pieces can damage disposal machinery and pose risk to workers. Obviously, this version isn’t completely waste-free, but you are still eliminating new plastics from being produced and added to the environment.

Buy it here

Package Free – $25 

Blade Refills – $.25 each

3. Bar soap | Ease of Switch 9/10 

Bar soaps are a cheap and easy way to cut back on plastic at the sink and in your shower. These zero-waste swaps are available in an incredible number of scents, packaging options, and sizes so most people won’t have trouble finding a good fit. If you can find and afford it, opt for a soap that is package-free, chemical-free, and biodegradable.

Natural bar soap is biodegrable and can be purchased completely pastic-free

Something you might also want when making the switch to bar soap is a self-straining holder. These little babies can be helpful in preserving the life of your soap and preventing the bar from becoming soggy. I like this one from the Zero Waste Store, but you can also make your own using rubber bands and a jar top

Dr. Bronners – $4.69 (I can often find this brand discounted at T.J.Maxx)

Toms of Maine – $4.99 (Try your local grocery stores as well) 

4. Toothpaste tabs | Ease of Switch 8/10 

If you like breath mints, toothpaste tabs will be a synch. Unlike some of the homemade solutions I’ve tried, toothpaste tabs don’t cause me to dry heave over the bathroom sink. Which is great. While you definitely don’t get the same rush of freshness as you do with a chemical-heavy Crest or Colgate, the tabs still leave your teeth and mouth feeling clean. Oh, and my dentist approves, too! 

I personally use Bites, although after doing this cost analysis, I’ll probably switch to Georganics. Regardless, both brands’ are cruelty-free and don’t contain sulfates or parabens. If you’re not a fan of traditional mint, Bites also has flavors like Berry Blast (good for kids) and Lavender Lemon. 

I love these Bites plastic-free toothpaste tabs

As for cost, Bites charges about $.2 per tab while Georganics is half that. My Bites subscription is $30 for four month’s supply that automatically renews, so I never run out. Their refills come in compostable, plant-based plastic, making even that part of the process zero-waste. Georganics, on the other hand, is about $26 for the same amount of tabs and they do not offer a subscription option.  

Truthfully, there’s not a huge difference in price or quality between either of these tabs. During this pandemic, Bites is more convenient because I can’t access a lot of local stores. However, after this period is over, buying Georganics makes more sense because it’s slightly cheaper, lets me support local business, and doesn’t require any added shipping. 

Buy it here 

Georganics tabs – $12.90 for 8 weeks 

Bites – $30 for four months  

5. Reusable Swabs | Ease of Switch 6/10 

I use ear swabs for makeup and, of course, a satisfying de-waxing. But daily use really adds up and these small items unfortunately often end up damaging waterways and oceans.

A zero-waste alternative to tradtional ear swabs

Fortunately, a very smart person invented a reusable & zero-waste swab. I own two different types; one for ears and one for makeup. Both are made out of a squishy, body-safe silicone and are easy to clean using just soap and water. They’re very comfortable and other than regular washing, don’t demand much of an adjustment. 

Earthsider – $12.95 (duo pack)   

LastSwab – $12 

6. Refillable Floss | Ease of Switch 10/10 

I hate flossing. What normal person doesn’t? But every time I go to the dentist, she reminds me it’s the only way to keep my own teeth. So I floss.

I started using refillable floss a few months ago and am very happy with this zero-waste swap. Before, I did try a low-waste floss wrapped in paper, but found it’s design totally non-durable and by the end of the pack, I was having to cut the floss with scissors. 

Low-waste charcoal floss by Georganics

Refillable floss, however, is just like regular floss but without the plastic waste. The container is made from glass and metal. And while normal floss is typically nylon, a type of plastic, most zero-waste floss is made from compostable 100% silk. The only exception I’ve found is Georganics charcoal floss, which contains some plastic in the form of polyester. Regardless of the brand you choose, always read the materials of your floss prior to buying to make sure you’re getting a wholly biodegradable option. 

As you may have guessed, refillable floss isn’t cheap. It averages about $7 upon initial purchase, plus $10 for two refills. I bought my current floss about four months ago, floss 3 times a week (don’t judge me), and still have a ways to go to finishing it. Out of all the products I’ve shared, refillable floss is arguably one of the most expensive and difficult to justify. But if you can afford it, you’ll be removing dangerously small and easy to swallow plastics from waterways and any animals in them. 

Buy it here

Public Goods – $2.50 

Boston General Store – $6.90 

Package Free – $11.99 

slow fashion lookbook: july

July was a scorcher. As one of those AC-deprived people, this time of year is particularly focused on me not melting. That means putting my makeup on directly in front of a fan, wrapping my hair in all kinds of unflattering contortions to keep it from touching my neck and back, and, of course, wearing as little clothing as socially acceptable. 

Fortunately, one of my more recent wardrobe evolutions has been the adoption of light-weight fabrics, many of which happen to be made from natural fibers. Without me saying anything, you can probably think of a whole slew of reasons why natural fibers are superior to their synthetic counterparts. They can support small-scale agriculture and farming, tend to use less energy in their production process, and most are designed to be very breathable. Check, check, and check. 

Wicker Shopper: 

Lately, my feed has been full of woven purses and totes, like these ones featured on The Good Trade. Needless to say, wicker is definitely having a moment and I’m not mad at it.

I found this gem at a farm stand just outside of Saratoga, NY. I regret throwing away the label but I can remember the bag was crafted in Africa and every purchase helped support small, women’s cooperatives. The bag itself is woven from thin straws and the straps are made of either leather or vegan leather. 

I love wicker because it offers a unique type of construction you can’t find in other matierls. It makes this bag a rare breed of accessory, one that’s suited for the beach and a five-star restaurant—not that I see a lot of the latter. 

Yacht Club Shorts: 

Savers for the win. Again. These pre-loved Gap shorts came into my life on the way back from Acadia, ME. A big fan of high waisted shorts, I admittedly had never had much interest in non-denim options, that is until I stumbled upon these 100% cotton bad boys. 

I think we all know cotton is natural. However, not all cotton is produced the same way. Uzbekistan, for example, one of the world’s leading producers of cotton, has been front and center in human rights debates due to child labor and worker exploitation, amongst other issues. On the other end of the spectrum are companies like Knickey, who are getting smarter about cotton by paying attention to both its sourcing and manufacturing processes. 

Because these shorts are Gap and likely a few years old, I’m willing to bet they were not made from sustainable cotton. But, I did buy them second hand—no money is going back to Gap—and despite any ethical issues, they are made from a natural fiber so they won’t shed microplastics in the wash. 

Silky Smooth Tank Top: 

When I was a kid, I remember stealing my mom’s silk scarves…well, momentary, until she took them back only minutes later. Honestly, I still feel a little child-like when I wear silk. But I’ve found the imposter syndrome wavers a bit when I find the right pieces.

This tank top, another post-Acadia find, has a sophisticated cut that’s easily paired with any bottom in my closet. To be honest, I really only bought this piece because a fashion sustainability panelist once said to buy vintage silk whenever you can find it. That said, the top’s grown on me since then and I have no regrets about the purchase. 

slow fashion lookbook: june

June is a funny thing in New England. There are days when the temperature teases you at a chilly 55 degrees. And other days, it’s so sweltering that you double check the calendar just to make sure you didn’t somehow forget it was August. Regardless, after a long winter, nothing feels better than taking off the layers of fleece, wool, and down until you finally remember what you look like when not preparing for a frigid 4-month apocalypse.

During this transition, your closet can be a really fun place to experiment. As the days get longer and I wake up to more and more “mostly sunny” weather reports, my hands automatically reach for sandals instead of boots, capped sleeves over long, bulky sweaters.

But don’t let your excitement for warm weather outway sensibility. Be too hasty with your clothes and you’ll be shivering in the office or sweating your way through an outdoor brunch. Instead, your approach to Sprummer (ha, see what I did there?) should be seasonally collaborative. Wool with bare legs. Lightweight bottoms paired with chunky knits and denim. Boots and summery dresses. The key is knowing what you need to stay a comfortable tempurature while creating enough visual contrast to keep things interesting.

Now, to the closet.

Look 1: Urban Indiana Jones

I’ve always struggled with hats. One, they block my peripheries. I mean if there’s a rogue BMW coming my way—I live in Boston so, likely—and I’m crossing the street, its a draw whether or not I make it to the other side in one piece. My second justification is simply that hats take confidence to wear. They are the adult versions of bras and lipgloss in middle school; you want to wear them but are nervous that you’ll look foolish or get unwanted attention. But snap my bra strap if you will because this hat and I are going to be inseperably this season.

I can’t let the hat get all the credit though. After all, look at these classic high-waisted white slacks! Another thrift find, these pants are equal parts light-weight and elegant (reads: elle-ay-gant). Since they entered my closet, they’ve become my go-to because they play nicely with literally every top in my closet. For this look, I’ve paired them with a cappuccino short-sleeved turtle neck, also thrifted, strappy espadrilles I found on Poshmark, and a long arrowhead necklace reminiscent of my high school years, another Poshmark find. Finish it all off with an oversized denim jacket and you’ve got a casual—yet still put-together—day look.

Look 2: Why Yes, I do Farmers Market

I found this beaut of a summer dress while perusing the shelves of an RI Savers. I normally don’t fall too hard for florals—something about their inexhaustible enthusiasm makes my inner Wednesday Adams squeamish. That said, this dress caught my eye because it was more subdued, still springy and fresh, but with a dark palette to bring it back down to earth. Add to that the high, full-coverage neckline and perfectly tailored form and I was sold.

With it, I paired my ethically and sustainably made Kozii shawl I purchased in Portugal last summer, wicker bag from a farm stand outside Saratoga, NY, and my new summer staple, my Eileen Fisher espadrilles.

This outfit is a great example of how clothes can really set the tone for a season. The dress offers nice grounding while the shawl adds a necessary touch of easy-breezy. Easily transitioned from day to night with the change of a shoe, this dress has earned itself high marks in my seasonal wardrobe.

Look 3: The Notorious RBG

I came upon this incredible skirt at my local thrift shop. I tend to avoid the skirt section altogether, finding I’d rather just wear a dress. Skirts are so often too short, too tight, too long, too sheer, etc. But at the time, I was looking for a longer, slightly billowy skirt to add to my “adulting” repertoire. This one was the ideal length with nice body and a memorable print. It falls perfectly on my natural waist and has just enough wiggle room to tuck in a top.

Keeping with the Ruth BadA$$ persona, I added this cream cowl neck top, another thrifted piece, made from this airy, stretchy material that drapes effortlessly with the rest of the outfit. Then I finished off the look with a classic brown leather tote from Madewell plus a $40 donation to Planned Parenthood and hazah, I was reminescant of the young cieling crusher herself. Well, at least a little bit.

guide to throwing your own clothing swap

Just being trashy.

As a kid, I loved hand-me-downs. Nothing thrilled me more than a garbage bag full of our neighbor’s Old Navy dresses or my older cousin’s cool tops and skirts from brands I’d never heard of. Every time I received a fresh load of used clothes, I’d sift through, trying on every piece and daydreaming about how cool I’d look sporting my new outfit at school the next day. Each delivery had new styles and brands, letting me experiment with my outfits and find different ways of dressing myself. If I was lucky, these bags also included purses, books, and toys.

Unfortunately, at a certain age, the trash bags stopped flowing in—likely because the girls stopped growing so frequently and started to level out in both weight and height. Even so, I still miss those shipments and the process of literally digging through bags of the unknown to find something out of the ordinary, something capable of bringing out a new side of my personal style.

Just like my neighbors and cousin, the majority of us can relate to that moment when you look in your closet and realize there are at least a few pieces you’ve been neglecting. That romper you wore out once but never again. Or the jacket you thought you’d need for work, before you realized your office was casual AF. And then there are all the things we grow out of. Jeans that are uncomfortably snug or sweaters that have become unflatteringly oversized. Whether it’s the style or the fit, we naturally grow disconnected from some pieces. So even if we still hold tight to them, say because you think it’ll fit eventually or because it has some emotional association, the reality is those pieces aren’t getting the wear they deserve.

For those closet castaways, donating is a great option. Donation centers often support social services to uplift particularly vulnerable populations, such as those with a criminal history, helping them create a livelihood and reconnecting them to their community. What’s more, larger second-hand chains, like Goodwill and Savers, have programs in place that allow them to recycle or repurpose almost anything (yes, even your old underwear!) so very little ever ends up in the landfill.  

But donating your clothing isn’t the only way to do good by an unwanted item. After all, one gal’s trash is a another’s teasure. So if you’re up for something a little more involved, clothes swaps are a fun and cheap way to KonMari your wardrobe, not to mention a damn good excuse to get the girls together.

The Who’s Who.

The key to a great clothes swap is the guest list. When it comes to invitees, try for 10-15 people. Any less and there may not be enough goods to go around. Any more and your event may lose its intimacy and community-feel. However, if you’re hoping for a more public-facing swap and don’t want to be restricted to your home, consider expanding your guest list to 30-50 or even posting your event to Facebook or Eventbrite. Churches and community centers are often happy to open their spaces to events for little or no cost, especially if the events have a social or environmental tie in.

In addition to how many, another important element to consider incorporating in your guest list is diversity in both body type and style. You want every guest to feel excited about your event and that means making sure there’s something for everyone. As you think about who to invite, be aware of each guests’ style and size. It may not work out perfectly but try your best to feature some clothing that will appeal to and fit all your guests. Another way to be inclusive is by offering more than just clothing. At my event, people brought books, shoes, jewelery—even a flask. With more to offer, you can guarantee guests will feel comfortable and leave with something they’re excited to take home.

The moral of the party.

Whether you’re hosting the swap at your home or in a public venue, put your best designer on making cute e-invitations (save some trees!) to get the event on everyone’s calendar and remind them to start scouring their homes for things to bring. In the description, list off examples of items you’re looking for, like clothing, shoes, housewares, books, kitchen items, and accessories, so guests understand the scope of your event.

Another thing you’ll want to include in your invite is a mention of why you’re hosting the event. This objective is totally up to you. If you just want to have a boozy girls day, that’s totally fine. But you could also use the swap as a chance to support your favorite sustainable charity by having guests donate $5 for attending the swap. If you’re particularly interested in the impacts of second-hand clothing and goods, like me, consider making your event educational. At my house, I hung up DIY plant streamers and notecards with facts about clothing waste, fast fashion, and the benefits of recycling. Lastly, if you’re wanting to put forth something even more involved, consider showing a movie like The True Cost or creating your own short presentation that demonstrates the impact each guest has had because they chose to recycle their clothing. As for supplemental materials, you could make a list of local second-hand stores guests could shop at in place of popular fast fashion brands. Or, check with a local thrift or charity shop to see if they have any materials for you to share.

Decor-rate.

When it came to preparing my house for the event, I knew I wanted to keep everything as low-waste as possible. That meant no balloons or plastic dishware. Instead, I used my own dishes and prepared the refreshments myself. While the spread was not completely plastic-free, it was a far cry from the red solo cups and plastic plates I commonly encounter at parties.

On top of the refreshments, I also DIYed my own decorations. Do I have strong artistic skills? No, my own mother could tell you that. But by using what I already had, I was able to create a fun environment without buying or consuming anything new.

Let them shop.

On the day of your event, make sure you know where you’ll be displaying the clothes. Consider asking guests to bring hangers or a rolling clothes rack. If you want to keep it low-maintenance, just have guests lay out their clothes on your floor (I highly recommend vacuuming beforehand). Make sure each item is visible and displayed so guests can get a good look at what’s up for grabs.

Before anyone begins picking, have each guest take a quick sweep around to survey the goods. This will help keep the process moving more quickly. Once everyone’s had a look, have each person pick a number. Whoever has #1 chooses first and so on and so forth until everyone has gone through the cycle once. While each person takes their turn, I found it helpful to have activities on hand. I set up a small painting station and indoor potting area where guests could plant tomatoes, basil, and carrot seeds to take home with them. Again, you could also choose to show a film or—god forbid—let people talk to one another.

Depending on how many you host, I suggest having guests go through the full lineup three to four times before they’re able to choose out of turn. When you do get to this point, feel free to open up the floor to trades as well.

To the thrift.

Last stop—the thrift store. Once guests have gone, gather up all the leftover items and put them into sturdy bags. Be sure to fold the clothing to keep it in good shape and prevent wrinkling. Afterward, head to Google to find your nearest donation center. Most organizations will take everything but keep in mind if there are items one place won’t accept, there’s likely another organization that will. For example, many animal shelters collect old towels for kennels and cleaning. And children’s afterschool programs are likely to accept used sportswear, like golf clubs or cleats. No matter what is left over from your swap, its important to do what you can to move every item closer to a new and loving home.

I hope this article has left you inspired to throw your own swap. If so, I highly recommend you check out The Good Trades’ article on clothing swaps for more examples of how to make your event a sustainable success.

meet @dressedtosustain

If you were to walk down any given street in any given urban or suburban area, the chances are you could throw a rock and hit a Starbucks, H&M, and Bath & Body Works all in one shot. Thank god, right? After all, what would I do without my overpriced almond milk latte, the dress I’ll definitely only wear once, and that glittery bath gel I stock up on any chance I get?

All sarcasm aside, this is the reality of the 21st-century consumer experience—one I’m on the journey to distance myself from. I mean, we’ve all seen pictures of the Great Pacific garbage patch and I’m willing to bet you were one of the 33,485,492 people who watched that turtle get a straw pulled out of its nose. But beyond the environmental damage, there are other less visible costs at hand. For example, wealth in the US may be rising, but so are rates of depression and anxiety. And while I’m no psychologist, I’d be willing to bet that many people’s need to keep up with the Jones, so to speak, by having the latest iPhone, best job, and so on is at least a little bit to blame for our growing dissatisfaction.

So how do we counter this consumer rat race? My answer came in the form of conscious consumerism. The act of caring about where, how, and by who your products were made, staying away from brands who don’t share your values, and considering every purchase as an opportunity to financially support the companies who have dedicated themselves to social and environmental sustainability.

For me, sustainability was, and is, being a member of my family. There’s a picture hanging in our garage of my mom and dad, young and smiling in matching t-shirts at SolarFest—a true Vermont namesake—that stands as a constant reminder of where I come from. My dad, in particular, has made sustainability a non-negotiable part of our household, equipping our home with all kinds of energy-saving gadgets, solar panels, a garden, and even a make-shift shower timer when I was eight (I wish I were kidding, too). But because it was more or less forced on me, my reaction growing up wasn’t to dream of the day I’d own my own Prius or embrace a zero-waste lifestyle. No, instead I kind of went the other direction. To me, sustainability wasn’t even an afterthought. I didn’t think about the impact of the waste I created, where it all went, or what the long-term effects of my usage would be. To me, a disposal coffee cup was convenient, plastic cutlery was a no-brainer, and if you think I gave a second thought to buying anything from H&M or Forever 21, my friend, you are sorely mistaken.

What changed? Well, me. As I got older, I exposed myself to movies, like Food Inc., and spent more time considering the expansive and murky gap between me and the products I consumed. But none of this happened overnight. On the contrary, it’s taken me a very long time to get where I am and there’s still so much work to be done. Only recently did I make the choice to stay away from retailers like Zara and start bringing my own mesh produce bags to avoid using the plastic ones at grocery stores. But as I started taking these small steps, I came upon big realizationsLike, why do people put bananas in plastic bags? They literally have their own natural covering. And why are straws a given at most bars and restaurants when, for most people, they are by every stretch of the imagination completely unnecessary? And then came the very sobering reality: With the growth and development of the commercial market, the value of convenience has only continued to skyrocket. In fact, it’s so ingrained in us to reach for a plastic fork or jump at anything cheap or free that we don’t even stop to think, “Hey, wait a minute.” This isn’t by accident. The plastic market is predicted to be worth $654.38 billion dollars by 2020. And just like beauty, fashion, and other industries that have to work to create consumer demand and stay relevant, the easier and more prevalent these products become in our lives, the harder it becomes to remove the plastic spoon from our mouths.

 But I want to be clear—I say none of this to shame anyone. I myself used three single-use plastic cups a few nights ago while I was out at a bar. And god knows I’m still trying to tame the rabid consumer beast that surfaces whenever I step foot into a TJMaxx. No, instead, I want this blog to be a place where people come to take first-steps and make small, but important, realizations. I want to put helpful information in people’s hands and make the process of living a more sustainable lifestyle financially, practically, and aesthetically feasible. I hope that by eliminating some of the stigmas and barriers associated with sustainability, I can make the movement as a whole more accessible for more people. I want to make room for mistakes and varying definitions of what it means to be “green”. And most of all, I want to show readers how truly gratifying, and even fun, a sustainable lifestyle can be. God knows, there are so many incredible artists, companies, eateries, and people working to make sustainability just as common as convenience. And the work they do isn’t just good for the planet, its refreshing to see. It’s a new spin on a modern story whose ending we each play a critical role in. The question is, are you willing to take that first step?

– Alexis