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Recycling is spreading its wings across generations and communities like Flagstaff, Arizona with a thriving array of thrift stores.
Recycling is spreading its wings across generations and communities like Flagstaff, Arizona with a thriving array of thrift stores. Ranked at the top of any list for class and quality thrifting is the non-profit Cedar Closet Thrift Shop. So, is thrifting worth the effort? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Ruth Loomis, longtime Flagstaff resident and frequent shopper said “I have been going to the Cedar Closet since it first opened on Cedar Ave. The quality and pricing of the merchandise are consistently excellent; no clothing tears, stains, or missing buttons to look out for. Several of my friends also happily shop there. And talk about friendly; you can hardly count the smiles of the all-volunteer staff.”
Every week the Cedar Closet has a new boutique-like arrangement of its furniture and décor. That is 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 had us reorganize the furniture, so I grew up doing this.” You’ll often find a specialty section for Holidays, Seasons, Western or Back to School wear including NAU apparel.
Operated by the volunteer members of the Assistance League of Flagstaff, it is open three days a week from Thursday to 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 Thursday.
The Assistance League of Flagstaff operates nine philanthropic programs that serve women, children, veterans, the elderly, and the homeless. They donate annually over $200,000 a year back into the greater Flagstaff community, most of which comes from Cedar Closet proceeds.
Several other non-profit thrift stores exist in Flagstaff that serve to help the community.
Savers, a for-profit thrift store run by a privately held company, Value Village, is located just east of the Flagstaff Mall. They advertise a portion of their proceeds are donated to the non-profit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff.
One may think of the typical thrift store customer as a person down on their luck, low income, or not able to afford to shop in full retail establishments. That image is changing with more middle and upper-class people making the choice to thrift. What is going on? Everyone likes the thrill of the hunt and finding a treasure for a tenth of its original cost. But, it’s also a conscious choice to become a 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 a landfill or incinerated each year. On average, consumers wear clothes 36% fewer times than they did 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 miss out on up to $460 billion each year by throwing away clothes they could continue to wear.” Their research goes on to articulate, “The process of producing clothing uses a high amount of energy. Every piece of clothing you’re wearing has gone through a complex manufacturing process that uses a high amount of electricity, water, and other energy sources. Recycling clothes saves energy by reducing or eliminating the need to make materials from scratch. Similarly, when you purchase recycled clothes, you’re playing a role in reducing the volume of ‘fast fashion’.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics considers people employed as clerks in Thrift stores to have “green jobs.” It takes at least 400 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make one T-shirt and 800 gallons for one pair of jeans.
Thrifting is also a growing form of tourism. Search YouTube and you will find videos of family thrifting trips alongside the vacations to the beach. It has become a thing for girlfriends to pick a city like Flagstaff with an array of thrift stores and good restaurants and plan a trip to shop bargains by day and spend their money on fine dining at night. A Florida based website I came across in my research advertises Thrifting Bus Tours.
Suzanne Carillo, Professional Thrifter and Etsy Seller (Instagram @suzannecarillo) based in Toronto, Canada was kind enough to allow me to interview her about her take on the evolution of thrifting.
1. In the past few years I'm delighted that thrifting has caught on with younger generations in leaps and bounds. There is no longer stigma associated with shopping thrift or secondhand stores and this is great news for the environment. Both of my nieces are experts at scoring all the latest fashion trends secondhand.
2. There are so many good reasons to shop thrift. Of course, it is easy on your pocketbook. It helps the environment. Some thrift shops support local charities. Thrifting offers choices you may not have considered. It encourages creativity. It helps you develop your own personal style.
3. Over consumption is ruining the only home we have. There is no plan B when earth becomes one massive garbage heap. The only way forward is by curbing consumption and using what is already here.
At the Cedar Closet we see younger and younger shoppers having fun as they put together their own fashion statements. We have so many high-quality donations that year-round sales often offer clothing for fifty cents a garment. And when you’re tired of that look, donate it back and pick out something new! There is also a Boutique of designer label garments and handbags for a fraction of their cost on eBay or other resale sights.
Thrifting includes much more than clothing. You can find linens, housewares, artwork, craft materials, baskets and plenty of furniture and small appliances to set up a student apartment. One cannot forget kids’ toys and clothes, plenty to keep grandma popular without breaking the bank.
Flagstaff also is 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, Flagstaff is now the place to “Thrift” if you get my drift.
Lynn Timmons Edwards
Member of the Flagstaff Assistance League