Aside from buying nothing or mending what you have, the next most sustainable option is often to buy used. And, if you’re looking to free up space in your home, donating or selling your gently used items keeps them out of your local landfill. Where can you do both? Online thrift stores!
Table of Contents
- Why thrifting is the green choice
- Best online thrift stores for women’s and kids’ clothing
- Best online clothing thrift store for buyers
- Best online thrift store for baby and kid gear
- Best online thrift store for vintage shopping
- Best online thrift store for outdoor gear
- Best eclectic online thrift store
- Best online thrift stores for high-fashion
- Selling with Poshmark
- Special mention for innovative UK thrift store
- Goldsmith Vintage
Why thrifting is the green choice
Thrifting is a great way to be thrifty, i.e., to save some cash. It’s also a great way to save resources and cut down on the unnecessary production of more stuff. After all, most clothing is only used a handful of times before it’s discarded, and one person’s fashion trash is another’s treasure.
Fashion is also a huge source of pollution and a massive consumer of water, including water that should be reserved for human consumption. This is why certifications such as BlueSign, Oeko-Tex, and GOTS are so important as they help cut down on pollution and the use of harsh and hazardous chemicals in textile production.
Even where companies are doing better in terms of using more sustainable materials and fewer dangerous chemicals, the fashion industry continues to grow. There are now more than one hundred billion garments produced each year (twice as many as 15 years ago), which means massive amounts of land devoted to growing conventional cotton and huge amounts of energy going into growing and producing natural and synthetic fibers and shipping these and the end products around the world.
Then, at end of life (which may be after just one wear!), 73% of apparel is sent to landfill or incinerated, according to ThredUp. Horrifyingly, 95% of that could have been reused or recycled. ThredUp also notes that buying just one item used reduces CO2 emissions by an average of 25% per wear.
Here are some of the best online thrift stores in the U.S. that offer a great experience for buyers and sellers looking to be more sustainable.
Best online thrift stores for women’s and kids’ clothing
Highlights: Arguably the biggest online thrift store for women’s and kids’ clothing, with more than 2.4 million items listed and nearly 100,000 added daily. High fashion and more affordable wear, with easy buying and selling. ThredUp is also super transparent and clearly committed to reducing fashion waste and making clothing more sustainable.
Fed up with unsustainable fast fashion? Check out ThredUp, a fun online thrift store with mostly women’s and kids’ secondhand clothing and shoes, and some bags and purses. ThredUp carries more than 55,000 clothing brands including high-fashion items and more affordable, everyday wear. You can score a huge bargain at ThredUp, with some items priced at 90% off retail. There’s also a great collection of more than 4,000 items of maternity wear.
Like Swap, ThredUp is incredibly efficient at listing new items and getting them out the door to be loved again. ThredUp processes a staggering 100,000 new items of clothing every day, with more than 2.4 million items listed and a capacity of 5.5 million items at its distribution centers. By the company’s calculations, its re-sale of more than 174 million items of clothing has helped avoid 637 million pounds of CO2 equivalent in greenhouse gas emissions.
How does ThredUp know this? Because it commissioned its own lifecycle impact report as part of its advocacy and education remit. ThredUp also offers a carbon clothing calculator, so you can estimate the impact of your clothing habits on your environmental footprint.
If you’re really just looking for cool clothes, though, you’ll want to check out ThredUp’s ReFashion range. This entirely upcycled clothing collection is made using secondhand garments and fabric scraps and is designed by Zero Waste Daniel.
Selling with ThredUp
For sellers, ThredUp offers a convenient Clean-Out Kit where you basically fill a ThredUp envelope with gently used items and send it to the company (prepaid) for assessment. The team then does a 12-point inspection, photographs and lists items that pass its quality standards. If an item sells, the company credits your account and you can choose to use the credit to shop or cash out.
Note, though, that not all brands of clothing are eligible for reimbursement. High-fashion brands such as Gucci and LuluLemon can net you up to 80% of the selling price and have a 45-day window to sell. Mid-price brands (Zara, Gap, Nike, and others) net you up to 60% of the sale price and have 30 days to sell. For brands like Old Navy and Uniqlo, there’s no reimbursement, though you can still send the clothes to help give them a second chance at life. ThredUp lets you check the eligibility of a brand before you send it. This model is also why ThredUp offers amazing discounts on value brands!
Note: ThredUp only ships to the U.S. and Canada (with limited product selection for Canada).
Best online clothing thrift store for buyers
Highlights: Affordable, gently-used clothing for all genders, ages, and sizes with millions of items, free shipping over $75 and 30% off your first order!
Swap has been in business since 2012 and was originally a kids’ consignment online store. It expanded rapidly though and now offers a huge range of clothing and shoes for people of all genders, and for adults and kids. This includes an excellent size range and a huge range (more than 2500 items) of maternity wear.
Swap adds almost 20,000 new items daily and there are currently more than two million unique items listed on Swap.com. This includes some high fashion items (at a huge discount) but mostly just good quality gently used affordable apparel.
Swap offers free shipping over $99 and 30% off your first order. It only ships in the U.S., though, so us Canucks are out of luck.
Selling with Swap
Swap had some teething troubles recently as word got out about its awesomeness and the company had to switch to an invite-only model for sellers. Those who are still in the fold as approved sellers send their pre-owned clothing to the company’s climate-controlled warehouse and fulfillment center in Rocky Mount, NC. The company takes care of the rest, including shipping the purchase to customers.
Here’s hoping Swap will open up its Premium Seller program soon. In the meantime, this is a great one for buyers.
Best online thrift store for baby and kid gear
Highlights: Gently used baby and kid gear that’s fully inspected and cleaned and sold at a huge discount! Great for sellers and buyers, but only available in a few cities (so far).
If you’re in the market to buy baby gear, GoodBuy Gear offers quality baby and kid items at up to 50% off retail. Everything is inspected and checked for safety and the company never sells recalled products (a real hazard when buying baby gear used). There’s gear for infants, toddlers, big kids, and adults and a huge variety, including gear for sleeping, feeding, diapering, travel, sports, outdoor, and for home décor.
GoodBuy Gear is a relatively new online thrift store set up to help families buy and sell used baby gear. So many baby items are only used for a short time period but cost a lot and require huge amounts of resources and materials to make. With sites like GoodBuy Gear (and Rebelstork in Canada), you can get some cash back and find a bargain, reducing the cost of parenting both financially and environmentally.
So far, GoodBuy Gear has locations in Brooklyn, NY, Denver, CO, Philadelphia, PA, and Washington, D.C. Not all services are available at all locations though, so check the website. In some locations, the company offers pick-up services. Elsewhere, you can drop off your used baby gear or, if you live outside these areas, consider trading your kid gear in at your local buybuy BABY.
Selling used gear
GoodBuy Gear takes the fussiness out of selling online. The company handles everything, including inspecting and cleaning items, taking photos, listing online and sending it to the new owner. As the seller, you get to approve the recommended selling price and them make up to 85% of whatever it sells for on their marketplace.
The company will even do minor repairs and replace broken parts (such a tires) where possible. Note, though, that any items that don’t sell after 120 days are donated to a non-profit partner unless you schedule pick-up 20 days prior to the 120 days. There’s also a $10 per item fee once items are listed on the site.
One thing I really love about the company is their Seller’s Insurance policy. This let’s you buy the same or similar item back within 12 months at a 50% discount if you suddenly realize you actually need it for another baby.
Best online thrift store for vintage shopping
Highlights: Bright, fun, retro fashion from the 60’s onwards, with thousands of new items added each week and a Reworked Vintage range of upcycled clothing. Based in the UK and great for all genders!
Missing that must-have fashion item for a 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s, costume party? Beyond Retro has you covered, literally. And this fun in-person and online thrift store based in the UK donates 10% of sales to charities.
Beyond Retro claims to rehome more than 90 million items each year, with thousands of new items added weekly to its inventory. Unlike many online fashion thrift stores, this one is not just marketed at women, offering clothes for all genders.
The first Beyond Retro store was housed in a disused dairy in East London and quickly built a reputation with the Brick Lane crowd for selling more outrageous and exciting clothing than the regular high-street clothing store. Over the years, Beyond Retro expanded beyond its Brick Lane roots to open four more stores in London and three other UK locations, plus stores in Sweden and Finland.
Beyond Retro has also gone… beyond thrifting, launching its own range of upcycled clothing as Reworked Vintage (view here). Each piece is unique, with dresses, bomber jackets, crop tops, shirts, and even bags and other items, all made using reworked textiles from Adidas, Nike, Disney, and other vintage brands.
Selling on Beyond Retro
Until recently, Beyond Retro didn’t have an option to sell your items on its site. Now, however, it has an online marketplace where you can list your Beyond Retro pieces for sale. This works a little differently to other online thrift stores in that your piece must be in the Beyond Retro inventory, but you handle the shipping yourself, instead of sending the piece to a distribution center. You then get credit for use on Beyond Retro, with no option to cash out.
If you’re near to one of the Beyond Retro stores, you can drop off pieces in exchange for store credit!
Best online thrift store for outdoor gear
Patagonia Worn Wear
Highlights: Patagonia’s Worn Wear takes the brand a step farther, though, offering gently used Patagonia clothing and accessories at massive discounts. This includes items for kids and adults of all genders. And because Patagonia offers an Ironclad Guarantee where it will replace and repair any of its pieces indefinitely, even the Worn Wear is a better bet than most new items! In fact, Patagonia’s quality control is so robust that every item in its Worn Wear inventory is washed and repaired before listing, meaning you don’t have to worry about buying a dud secondhand item.
Patagonia is one of our favorite companies at Leaf Score, given its generally more sustainable approach to manufacturing and selling outdoor adventure gear. Co-founder of 1% for the Planet – hello!
Patagonia also has a ReCrafted range of clothes made from other clothes. This includes jackets, shirts, sweaters, bags, and more. Each one is unique, created from Patagonia items that were beyond repair but had salvageable components with life left for upcycling. If you live in Boulder, Colorado, the Worn Wear store even has a ReCrafted section!
Selling with Patagonia Worn Wear
If you’ve got gently used Patagonia clothing or gear that you won’t use again, especially kids’ gear they’ve outgrown, you can send it to Worn Wear and get store credit to use against new and used items. In some locations, you may also be able to drop off items for Worn Wear trade-in in-store.
Note that Patagonia doesn’t accept the following for Worn Wear: Swimwear, underwear, bras, PBL (Capilene and merino), embroidered items, shoes, wading boots, T-shirts, ski patrol jackets, accessories (hats, scarves, beanies, gloves, socks), waders, wetsuits, sleeping bags or Factory Seconds.
Also, it costs $7 to ship 5-8 items in the Worn Wear packaging, though Patagonia requests you reuse your own packaging. The company won’t return any items it doesn’t accept, so if you think there’s a chance of rejection, consider listing the piece elsewhere, such as on Poshmark.
Best eclectic online thrift store
Highlights: Incredibly eclectic inventory of curated items from participating Goodwill stores, with a fun auction model and all proceeds supporting the non-profit’s charitable mission. Great for collectibles, antiques, and real bargains and exciting finds!
If you’ve been searching high and low for a VHS boxset of Indiana Jones movies, or really need a Vintage 1970s Craftsman 7-Band Portable Radio, online Goodwill may be just the place. Both these items were listed at the time of writing, with prices still under $10 and low-cost shipping on most purchases, with some 1c shipping items too! There are even wedding dresses for less than $20, which would help save money, so you can stretch to buy an appraised diamond ring for $35k.
As you’d expect with any good thrift store, the inventory at shopgoodwill.com includes antiques and collectibles, clothing, home décor, electronics, movies and music, musical instruments, religious items, and much more. Many of these are new, with the rest made up of nearly new items, all curated from the vast inventory of goods donated to participating Goodwill stores.
And, as with all in-store purchases from Goodwill, online sales at shopgoodwill also fund the non-profit’s mission of education, training, and job placement programs for people with disabilities and other barriers to employment.
Goodwill online operates on an auction basis, with items listed typically at a very low price, allowing for some real bargains if you luck out. This approach also adds a bit of drama and fun to online thrifting! Check the Last Chance auctions for items with one or no bids ending in 30 mins, and make sure to sign up for email notifications, so you know right away if you’re outbid.
I love that the site lets you select listings from your local Goodwill, making for even more sustainable online thrifting as you can then opt to pick up in-store (or just have a much shorter delivery distance).
Selling with Goodwill
As you’d expect, peer-to-peer selling and consignment aren’t an option with shopgoodwill.com. If you have gently used items to donate, though, check with your local Goodwill to see if it’s a participating store with shopgoodwill.
Best online thrift stores for high-fashion
Highlights: Great for sellers and buyers of modern fashion, with a thrift-store feel and super popular, easy to use app. Some real gems among the more than 200 million items!
Poshmark is a fantastic online thrift store, albeit one that isn’t centrally curated. This means every purchase is a little bit of a gamble as everything ships direct from seller, rather than a warehouse where items have been screened, repaired, and beautifully photographed. Honestly, though, Poshmark feels truer to life, in that the website channels some of that cluttered, treasure-hunting vibe of a real-life thrift store.
Poshmark also encourages haggling, with Poshers (sellers) often listing items at optimistic prices with the expectation buyers will counter-offer. Items include clothing for all genders, kids, and pets, home décor, electronics, bags, shoes, jewelry, makeup, and more. Need a prom dress? Check Poshmark. Need a prom dress for your dog? Check Poshmark.
Poshmark also has one of the best thrift store apps around. The only downside is that it can be a bit addictive as it’s so easy to scroll and click to buy with little thought. For this reason, Poshmark can feel a bit unsustainable. After all, mailing millions of items of impulse-buy clothing all over North America and Europe isn’t exactly climate friendly.
Still, if you need new clothes to replace worn out items or extend your closet, Poshmark is a good bet. Most of the 5,000 or so brands listed are on the more modern fashion side, with a handful of retro bargains. There’s bound to be something among the 200 million items that will work for you, though it can take a bit of time to work out how best to search to find the perfect thing.
Not sure exactly what you’re after and need some inspiration? You can search by size and use other filters to discover something new to you.
Selling with Poshmark
If you don’t mind doing the legwork of snapping photos, listing, and mailing your old gear, Poshmark is a great online marketplace for sellers (and buyers!). The app makes things fairly easy, working with Android and iPhone. Just lay out your item, take a photo or twelve, upload them and set a price.
Once your item sells, you receive the shipping details and get a prepaid shipping label to use on the order. You just pack up the item and send it. Once delivered, you get the cash in your account after the 14-day return period. You can either use the credit in the online store or cash out. And if a buyer loves your style, they can follow your ‘closet’ and get alerts when you list new items, helping you make a quick sale. You can also easily share your online inventory on social media to get more eyes on your wares.
My experience with Poshmark
I’ve used Poshmark a few times in Canada, mainly to source baby clothes and shoes. These are typically expensive to buy new and are often only worn a handful of times, meaning ‘used’ items are almost always in fantastic condition. This was my experience with all my Poshmark finds – perfect near-new quality items that arrived very quickly, with postal tracking, and for a fraction of the price new.
My favorite find was a very cheap pair of baby Vans, for just $7 Canadian, in perfect condition. After a month of wear by my extremely active outdoorsy toddler, these are definitely not in a condition to resell, however!
A friend of mine also swears by Poshmark for all their fashion needs. In part, this is because of their very demanding job that leaves little time for shopping in stores. It’s also because they’re genderqueer, which can make in-store shopping feel a little uncomfortable at times. Poshmark has proven a treasure trove for inexpensive exploration of what works for them, fashion-wise. And, if they don’t love something, they just relist it for someone else to love!
Highlights: One to watch, this online swap-store and non-profit has some seriously weird items and some real bargains, mostly thanks to its early adopter student users in the U.S. and UK.
Swapabee is on a mission to make stuff more sustainable. A quick look turned up a listing for a pot of English sand (yes, beach sand) for $5, a snowboard, a crystal skull, an e-bike, and seven unopened Lego sets.
Unlike most online thrift stores, Swapabee uses a unique algorithm that matches your swap item to five things it thinks you might like (and where the seller might like your item). This means you can entirely cut out financial transactions and just swap stuff. Or, if your items are valued very differently, you can negotiate adding cash or other items.
How does this work in practice? Say you have an old band tee you’re ready to retire. Take a photo and upload it to the swapabee app. The app will then match that tee to five other items you might want in exchange. These could be, I don’t know, a bucket of English sand or a crystal skull. If you’re game, you can ask the other swapper(s) if they like your band tee and, if they’re interested, you’ll get directed to a chat room to work out the details. This might mean meeting in person if you’re local or mailing the items if necessary.
With Swapabee, the first two swaps are free and then there’s a small fee for each swap. A portion of the fee goes to running the app and the rest to charities involving in cleaning up plastic pollution. Swapabee itself is a non-profit organization and it donates all excess profits to Bee Charity to help support bee populations.
Special mention for innovative UK thrift store
Highlights: UK-based, social justice oriented, innovative thrift store selling vintage clothing and a cool collection of upcycled fashion created by design students!
Goldsmith Vintage is a UK online thrift store that does things a little differently. Here, you’ll find vintage sportswear, bags, dresses, jackets, Hawaiian shirts, band t-shirts, and more. There’s also an option to purchase Mystery Boxes to shake up your style!
Based in the UK, Goldsmith Vintage is LGBTQ-owned and operated and is one of the few thrift stores truly motivated by sustainability and social justice. The company has been around since the 1990s and saves around 30 tons of clothing from landfill each year.
Goldsmith Vintage’s Rework collection features unique items made through its Alter Eco program. This impressive, exciting range of one-off pieces is created by fashion design students using deadstock fabric. Students also get 20% off at Goldsmith Vintage and there’s free UK shipping on orders over 50GBP.