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Downtown Harrisonburg is the home to a wide selection of thrift shops. These shops are popular among both townies and college students.

What was once considered meager means of getting by has now become a cultural stakeholder. Thrifting has become the norm for so many. Since coming to college, more and more peers have relished in their thrift store finds: vintage tees, worn-in sweaters and other pieces of clothing to wear to a 1990s party. However, thrifting isn’t just a means of saving pennies. It also hosts countless other benefits that may outweigh the cons of shopping at other mass commercialized retail spaces like Target, Old Navy, H&M and Walmart.

Fast-fashion — the fast and mass production of fashion trends from catwalks to department stores — has been under scrutiny by environmentalists and the fashion industry. While textile dye is the second largest polluter of water, retail has been considered the second dirtiest industry in the world, polluting more than any other industry besides oil. A huge component of fast-fashion is being able to use synthetic, fibers, many which are composited from microfibers. When washed, these microfibers get stuck in washing machines and end up floating in our oceans.

Air pollution from factories contributes to the escalating rate of global warming and cloud local and foreign communities with toxic chemicals. This raises questions about workers’ rights. From air and water pollution to exploiting foreign workers’ rights, the retail and fashion industry causes concerns.

Shopping at used clothing stores, thrift shops and vintage stores has environmental benefits. For one, shoppers don’t participate in the pollution caused by the retail and fashion industry. When demand is low, production slows.

Financially, it’s no surprise clothes are cheaper in these stores, and many times of similar quality. Ethics play a part in the widespread hobby. It’s a trend and cultural fad that everyone should jump on.

Although the stigma of thrift shopping has eased, it’s still prevalent. Thrift shopping is continually associated with being affected by poverty. It may be true that the choice to thrift could be a result of and individual's socio-economic status, but it shouldn't be a deterrent for others who are not impacted by poverty. Nobody should be ignorant to believe that thrifting equates to socio-economic status. Nobody should feel embarrassed, belittled or ashamed by shopping at thrift stores. Having a prejudice against thrifting and thinking that one is of a lower caste than any other treads the line on classism.

College students have become staple customers of thrift stores across the country. It comes with adventure and not fully knowing what one will find in the shops. It has become a quick-stop for costume pieces and treasure trove of clothing items. It’s not only an ethical choice, but a money saver It’s become a cultural phenomena and generational fad. It isn’t an out-of-the-blue occurrence for something. Thrifting is a staple and hobby. We should be thrifting more rather than less, to push away the stigma and fast fashion and its consequences. Whether you have $20 in your pocket or $200, ethical shopping is always the right answer.

Richard Carey is a communications major. Contact Richard at careyra@dukes.jmu.edu.