06/20/2011 02:53 pm ET | Updated Aug 20, 2011

Thrifting Is Good

My teenage son, Thomas, likes to thrift shop. While the average teen is spending 40 or more hours online on a weekly basis, there is a high percentage of teens, like Thomas, who enjoy "thrifting."

Why? There is an ongoing pressure for teens to wear new fashions that set them apart from others, and earn them "trend starter" status. Today, it's cool to create your own look. Your typical department store may have a limited selection of clothing and accessories, making it hard for the average teen to stand out. It can also be difficult to maintain a fashionable look on a limited budget. Additionally, the transition to adulthood and the struggle to be independent plays into the thrifting phenomena. Affordable prices enable teens to customize and individualize their fashions, while spending money on their own terms, and to shop with friends -- and without parents.

I'm not sure which of the above actually describes Thomas' reasons for thrifting, but I support his thrifting habits. It teaches him to be frugal while also learning the importance of patience as he scours the racks for clothing, unique items or whatever else he may not tell me about. It's also a learning experience for him. He learns which are the best shopping days, which stores have color tag sales, and who among his friends has the best eye for spotting unique items.

Thrifting enables Thomas and other teens to be creative but it also teaches real-life lessons about community strengthening and environmental sustainability. As bargain hunters, teens are learning first-hand what it means to give items a second life, and how to reduce, reuse and repurpose. Purchasing items from thrift and second-hand stores keeps those items from landfills, lessening waste in our communities. In Goodwill's case, this equates to more than 2 billion pounds of goods from landfills each year. I personally feel, and I hope Thomas does too, that if you haven't walked in another's shoes (literally), that you've missed out on a lot.

That is why I'm so proud to have Goodwill serve as an educational and promotional partner of All Thrifty States: A Visual Journey through America's Collective Closets, a documentary, photo project and upcoming book spearheaded by Jenna Isaacson, a DC-based visual journalist and lover of all things thrift.

All Thrifty States is an investigative look into the significance of second-hand shopping, and how consumers' purchases of previously used items can be not only a choice that is healthy for the planet, but an answer to the consumerism that has pushed Americans' spending habits to the max.

Jenna plans to embark on a journey from June 19 - August 8 to create awareness and promote an alternative to American consumerism. Jenna's goal is to encourage people to lead a more 'second-hand' lifestyle. Jenna will depart from Phoenix this Saturday and stop at Goodwill stores in Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Louisville, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Omaha, Seattle, Spokane, and other locations, to bring light to the nation's spending habits and gain an understanding of local communities by examining what they once owned.

Jenna will be encouraging consumers -- especially teens -- to make a conscious choice by shopping second-hand and lowering the amount of resources we, as a society, collectively demand.

Throughout these efforts, Jenna will be promoting a healthy consumer life-cycle, which includes donating and shopping at Goodwill. At each Goodwill destination, gently used donated goods will serve as the visuals for Jenna's initiative.

So the next time your teens want to go thrifting, support them -- or join them if they will let you. You'll learn a lot about your community's shopping and donating habits. And if you're shopping at nonprofit-run thrift stores like Goodwill, you'll also help preserve the planet and make a difference in your community, and most of all you'll learn more about your teenager!

To view Jenna's itinerary, track her progress or read her blog, visit at or find her on Twitter at @allthriftystate.