Green Living Takes Recycled Clothing from Shabby to Chic
Until recently, I never really considered buying used clothing, much less used kids’ clothing, but somewhere along the path of saving money and doing good for the planet I wound up in a used-clothing store. I was amazed by the buried treasures and great prices, and ever since, I’ve been hooked. I’m just one person who has reconsidered my view of used clothing shops — but I’m one of many.
Between watching the news and chatting with my girlfriends, it’s become obvious to me that many people have caught on to the idea of buying gently used clothing and other items. They not only save money, they also reduce their use of virgin natural resources. A practice that was once considered a faux pas is now common — and even a bragging right, when the discussion turns to the importance of going green.
I’m relatively new to the habit of thinking about my impact on the earth and trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Yet, I’m always excited about trying new things, and finding new ways to live a greener life has become an enjoyable challenge.
One Saturday afternoon not long ago, I was wandering through a shopping center when I came across Once Upon a Child, a resale store for children. Before I knew it, I was digging through the racks of the store on a treasure hunt for great prices and cute outfits for my two-year-old daughter, River. There are so many reasons “previously loved” clothing makes sense, especially for kids. It seems as though every two seconds they grow out of something; and every second they spill something on themselves; and they don’t even care whether you spend $20 on a shirt or $2.
Buying second-hand clothing for River was an easy step for me to take, but now I think I’m ready for a bigger one. It’s time to start buying used clothing for myself. This may turn out to be more challenging, particularly because I wear a unique size. Fortunately, I recently saw a commercial for Plato’s Closet, a store that specializes in used clothing for a niche market that includes my size. I’m very hopeful.
As I’ve learned, Plato’s Closet is part of the Winmark Corporation. Their brands include Plato’s Closet, Play It Again Sports (a resale shop for sports equipment), Music Go Round (a resale shop for musical instruments), and Once Upon a Child — the kids’ used-clothing store, where I now shop for River’s clothes.
According to Susan Baustian, the brand director of Once Upon a Child, a husband and wife team started the company in 1985. As the parents of three young boys, they were searching to find a use for their children’s old clothes and to buy inexpensive “new-to-us” clothes for their kids. With this goal in mind, they started Once Upon a Child.
Now, more than 20 years later, Once Upon a Child has 232 stores in the U.S. and Canada, with approximately 15 stores added every year. In addition to being the largest resale-clothing chain nationwide, Once Upon a Child has maintained its original focus: reselling used clothing while providing families with a great economic value. Baustian added that employees get to “go to work each day, proud of what [they] do on a daily basis.” I think that says a lot about the type of company and industry this is.
Intrigued by my shopping trips to Once Upon a Child, I visited their website. The home page contains a link to a Brag Book, filled with stories posted by Once Upon a Time shoppers. While reading some of the entries, I realized the enormous impact this store (and stores like it) have on people. There were a lot of “found-a-great-outfit entries” and “found-great-baby-gear-for-half-off entries,” but what really caught my attention were the single-mom and young-couple entries.
For example, a young mother named Paige wrote, “When I first found out I was pregnant I didn’t know what to do. Me only being 17 was scary. I had no job, no money, and definitely no baby clothes or anything for my baby. When I heard about Once Upon A Child I was very happy. I went into the store and found numerous things I wanted for my baby for a very cheap price. I couldn’t be any happier than I am now with my son…”
Somehow, I (perhaps like many of you) overlooked how many families and individuals are struggling to make ends meet. Reading the stories of young mothers struggling to clothe their babies and couples with “earlier-than-expected” pregnancies gave me a much greater appreciation for the impact of these stores. At the same time that these stores are helping people “recycle” their used clothes to other families and keep them out of the landfill, they’re making it possible for individuals to afford clothing that they otherwise couldn’t.
And now that River has plenty of “new” clothes from Once Upon a Child, I’m excited about my own pending trip to Plato’s Closet. Going green just got easier.