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Online thrift shop aims to keep clothing out of garbage

[column size=”two-third”] [/column] [column size=”one-third” last=”true”] Secondhand clothing stores in Vancouver [/column] [column size=”two-third”] [/column] [column size=”one-third” last=”true”][/column] With the…

By Julie Kanhnha , in Feature story Life , on April 1, 2015

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Secondhand clothing stores in Vancouver

Secondhand clothing stores, Vancouver

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With the hope of reducing a small but difficult stream of waste in the region, students at the University of British Columbia are launching an online secondhand platform for shoppers on campus.

Thrifft’s goal is to “minimize students’ costs to maximize their closet and social impact,” according to Ana Prieto, an exchange student at UBC from the University of Warwick. She and Vanessa Lee, a student in the Sauder School of Business, are the co-founders. Along with Jonathan Kwok, the web programmer, the three make up the core of the team. Sharing the same values, they have been working on the project since November 2014, and plan on launching their website on April 14, 2015.

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On average, the Canadian disposes of 14 kilograms of textile waste a year. The Salvation Army reported that in 2010, its Vancouver Recycle Centre diverted 14.8 million pounds of mixed textiles. And that’s just one of the many sources of clothes thrown away in the region.

That kind of waste is the product of an increasing trend towards throw-away fashion. Canadians’ average household expenditure for clothing and accessories in 2013 was $3,550.

Although there are 67 secondhand stores in Vancouver, the nearest to UBC is in West Point Grey, a 15-minute commute from campus.

There are also various thrift shops available online, including CraigslistKijijieBay, and Freecyle, but none is dedicated for clothing exclusively.

As a result, students have turned to Facebook groups for buying and selling secondhand clothes. They include the UBC Girls Clothes/Shoes/Accsssories etc Sell & Buy, and the [GUYS] Sell Your Old Clothes UBC.

The UBC Girls Clothes/Shoes/Accsssories etc Sell & Buy is widely used. It has 3,259 members with “over 88 requests pending,” according to Angela Kim, the administrator.

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Ana Prieto and Jonathan Kwok are working on their thrift shopping website
Ana Prieto and Jonathan Kwok are working on their thrift shopping website

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Efficient business

Thrifft’s inspiration comes from Lee and Prieto’s difficulties trying to sell unwanted clothes on Facebook in the past.

“When we posted items they just didn’t get viewed, and we didn’t get enough interest. And when we did get interest from people, the system was a bit inefficient,” said Prieto.

Buying and selling via a Facebook group is tedious.

People who want to sell clothes create a post where they showcase their items, and then wait for potential buyers to see it.

But often, the news feed gets overcrowded, and those who don’t scroll down are unable to see what they are looking for.

Even when a post gets seen, those interested in buying have to write a comment or a private message and wait for an answer. Meanwhile, the sellers pick the people they want to sell to. Messages are exchanged until finally, both parties agree on a time and place to meet with one another.

Richard Smith, professor and director of the Master of Digital Media Program at the Centre for Digital Media, said that Facebook is not optimized for online buying and selling – or at least not now.

“Facebook’s algorithm, optimized to keep people interested in the news feed, is not good for other things,” Smith said.

Unique features

Thrifft has some features that the Facebook groups cannot provide, including the “Interested” button for potential buyers.

In addition, Prieto said the users “will know where they rank, so it’s fair and it’s easier.”

Similar to Facebook, students will still be the ones deciding where to make the deal. But Thrifft asks the sellers to write the location while creating the post. That way, it saves time.

While browsing on Thrifft, people will also be able to see all the products that are available. They are sorted by type and by size so shoppers can search by category.

Social impacts

Thrifft aims higher than enhancing secondhand shopping experiences, however. It has an explicit goal of trying to recycle clothes that other groups don’t.

“We’re really trying to make a positive social impact in the world, and what we’re trying to do is to contribute to waste diversion, especially within the clothing industry, because as great as fast fashion is, it creates a lot of waste,” said Prieto.

The reality is that not a lot of clothes go into the landfill in Vancouver.

“I can’t tell you the percentage, but it’s not very high,” said Albert Shamess, director of waste management and resource recovery at the City of Vancouver. “From a waste management perspective, a lot is happening already.”

Nevertheless, Shamess thinks “there’s always opportunity for improvement”.

To optimize clothing reuse, Thrifft also encourages clothing donations. After a month, if an item doesn’t get sold Thrifft will suggest that people donate to charity.

“Currently how it’s going to work is that the user will have to physically take it to the stores or to charities,” said Prieto. “But of course we can’t obligate anybody to do anything they don’t want to.”
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