recycling vs upcycling whats the big difference?


recycling vs upcycling whats the big difference?


For rebellious or free-spirited types, hearing the word responsibility may stimulate internal fight-or-flight mechanisms. But for someone whose being thrives on discipline and duty, hearing the very same word may cause feelings of euphoria and joy.

Here at Thrift Trader in San Diego, we don’t judge. Our team consists of people with any number of personality types, and we love them all. But one thing we all have in common is the desire to do good on behalf of our fellow human beings and this planet we call home.

We’ve noticed a similar trend among people who shop at Thrift Trader. Some come in just because we offer vintage and modern fashion at affordable prices, or because they know they might score some impossible-to-find vinyl record.  But there are also quite a few regulars who shop with us because they are just as committed to doing good (i.e. responsible shopping) as they are to looking good.  

What do we mean by that?  Well, in a nutshell, shopping at thrift stores is good for the planet. By purchasing recycled clothing instead of newly manufactured clothing that’s never been worn, you’re reducing your carbon footprint.

At Thrift Trader, we buy, sell, and trade recycled clothing. So there’s that. But the difference between shopping at with us and shopping at any random thrift store is that here, you simultaneously reduce your carbon footprint and increase your style footprint.

(Did we just say that? We did, didn’t we?)



Ok, yeah, let’s go back to the basics. Remember the three Rs? Let’s put them in the context of clothing.

  • Reduce – When you buy gently used clothing, you’re helping to reduce the amount of waste associated with the culture of “fast fashion.”    
  • Reuse – When you sell or trade or give away your clothing to a thrift store, you’re giving them a new life in which they will be reused. In this case, both you and the person who buys your old clothing are helping to reduce waste.
  • Recycle – This is the process of changing something considered waste and turning it into something useful. And when we’re talking about clothing, that often falls into two different categories:
  • Downcycling – Taking an old t-shirt and turning it into a dishrag would be considered downcycling.
  • Upcycling – Pulling a Molly Ringwald* and firing up your sewing machine to turn your mom’s old-fashioned dress into something prom-worthy? That’s upcycling. (*If you haven’t seen Pretty in Pink, you must. Classic 80s flick.)


At Thrift Trader in San Diego, we love fashion, and we love sustainability, and if you do, too, you should come see us in North Park or Pacific Beach.

Whether you call it “being responsible” or just “being awesome,” the point is that you get to feel good about looking good. And what’s better than that?


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