Thumbs Down for Thred-UP

My dissertation is in and I can finally sit down and publish some of my recent musings on our waste-conscious journey! Recently, I was appointed as an ambassador for the UK’s growing movement “Zero Waste Week,” and I am excited to start targeting my upcoming posts to my commitment to cut food waste, and to explore the equitable ways diverse communities might imagine themselves (and participate) in waste-conscious movements, which are often very white and upper/middle class in orientation.

So to begin this work leading up to Zero Waste Week, I wanted to circle back to my last post– Waste-Conscious Clothing— before switching to food focused posts.

In this past blog I featured the online clothes buying and selling company “ThredUP.” I was intrigued by their mission and goals, and impressed by their charge to recycle rejected items “responsibly.” I decided to give it a try.

In mid-April, I shipped a large “Clean Out Bag” to ThredUP. This process was easy and free, which I liked. They delivered a bag to my door and I filled it with my clothing items and dropped it off at my local Post Office. They sent confirmation of my bag’s receipt on April 25th, 2016.

Then the waiting began. I was a bit shocked to find out that it would take an entire month process my order, something to keep in mind if you are doing this in order to earn a bit of extra cash.

Finally, on May 24th, 2016 my order had been process and I received the following e-mail.


That’s right, four items were selected from my bag stuffed with 16 items, all to earn me a whopping $3.35.

Thumbs down for thredUP

So what’s the big deal?

I made $3 on 16 items of gently-used clothing items, this was a major loss. $3 is barely worth the time it took me to drive to the post-office, time that could have been spent driving to other local recycling options (Goodwill, Salvation Army, the Women’s Shelter, etc.).

Despite the long wait, thredUP’s process was easy enough and their e-mails and website were clear and informative. However, this scheme (like many others), does more for the company than for the environment or those participating. This is not new. Just unfortunate.

The negatives (thinking waste):

  • The plastic “Clean Out” bag
  • The post materials and the oil/emissions clothing requires to travel across country
  • Time (orders took a month to process)
  • Useable clothing “recycled” (<–this is in quotations throughout because while their website boasts sustainable and eco-friendly recycling practices, these could be as “good” as Goodwill’s, which sells clothing into international markets that are often exploitative)
  •  Pay out is meager, so the incentive (to waste/not to waste) is low

Alternatives to thredup

So what’s a body to do with their clothes?

The first thing that came to mind: friends.

I wholeheartedly regret not giving my friends the items I was trying to sell through thredUP. A lot of the stuff was seasonal and ready to wear, I had simply needed to downsize and purge clothes that never saw the outside of my closet. In future, I might try to stage a clothing swap between like-sized and fashioned friends. This will probably take more work than dumping items into a “Clean Out” bag and shipping it off, but it could prove more sustainable and keep both yourself and your friends from having to buy new items at the beginning of each season.

The second thing: donation, donation, donation.

Typically, I like to donate my clothes to women’s shelters in Los Angeles.  I know these items are much needed and will be well-used. Rather than 12 of my 16 items going into some clothes “recycling” scheme, they could have been used to clothe those in my city who are in need.

Finally, money is a big reason for swapping out wardrobe pieces and I know a lot people rely on services like Buffalo Exchange, CrossRoads, and others to maintain their wardrobe. If money is an issue and a reason why you need to sell your clothes, consider a few of these more labor intensive options to get the most out of your items:

  • Ebay, Craigslist; online sites where you can name your price
  • Gather with a group of friends and stage a garage sale
  • Consignment stores, local boutiques, and clothing exchanges

In my humble opinion and after trying several of these options, all would be better than bothering with the thredUP route. That is, unless you have some wildly expensive pieces you are looking to sell, the payout is simply not worth the time, effort, or the waste.




One thought on “Thumbs Down for Thred-UP

  1. busygreenmum says:

    A clothes swap is a great idea if you have a lot of friends/contacts that also have things to swap – I went to one recently ( not organised by me though so I had the easy bit) and as well as a chance to swap things it was also a great social occasion and raised over £350 for charity. People donated so much that there were still a lot of leftover clothes that I helped with donating to a variety of charity shops / nearly new seller.

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