Thrift for Good

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This week we interview Jennifer Sault, founder at Thrift for Good, the first online charity thrift store in the UAE.  From funding the purchase of a mini bus to enable kids to go to school in Tanzania to helping build classrooms for kids in Peru, the initiative exists to reduce waste, raise funds for children around the world and fuel meaningful projects by reselling donated items.

Please could you tell us how Thrift For Good was started and why?

Thrift for Good was founded in February 2020 to reduce waste and raise funds for children around the world, in partnership with Gulf for Good. It exists to fuel meaningful projects by reselling donated items.

I worked as Operations Manager for Gulf for Good for a three year period, during which I learned that the biggest barrier for great projects is funding. Yet, there are so many wonderful supportive people interested in giving their used items to a good cause. I am an avid nature lover and environmentalist who desperately missed not being able to Thrift in Dubai. These ideas came together to create Thrift for Good, the first online charity thrift store in the UAE.

Thrift for Good is a social enterprise powered by a large group of volunteer supporters (we are currently 100% volunteer led). It’s only thanks to them that we can succeed – please contribute your used items, shop sustainable fashion, and volunteer to make it all happen.

What items do you take and how has the response been so far?

Thrift for Good collects donations every Monday and sells them online. We donate what is needed and upcycle what is damaged. We currently accept all clothing, shoes, bags, accessories and other fashion items. When markets open back up, we will accept everything except for furniture and appliances.

The response has been fantastic as there is a gap for a charity thrift store in Dubai, especially online. We provide amazing quality pieces for unbeatable prices. We also provide try before you buy and two week exchange. The feedback we have received is 100% positive and we are growing/improving every day. We are also lucky to have a fantastic community of donors and supporters who make the magic happen.

What happens to the items once you receive them, where do they go, which charities?

Once we collect the donations on a Monday, volunteers sort them into what will be sold online, at events, in bulk, and those that will be donated or are damaged and need to be upcycled. We donate towels and linens to dog shelters, children’s clothing to projects overseas, and clothes locally when requested.

100% of our profits go to support children around the world via Gulf for Good, a local non-profit organisation that raises funds for their projects through life changing experiences, adventure challenges and fitness opportunities. Each year, four of their projects are selected to receive funds against a significant need. This year, funds will support:

  1. The purchase of a mini-bus in Tanzania to enable children to go to school in the Larchfield Kids home
  2. The building of an indoor multi-disciplinary space in Peru so that the children of Chicuchas Wasi can continue their activities during the rainy season
  3. The building of schools in Nepal for the children of migrant labourers in Kathmandu valley’s brick kiln factories in partnership with Street Child Nepal
  4. The renovation of classrooms in Uganda through Soft Power Education
  5. The renovation, tiling and building of a playground in Uganda for the children at Kisoro Children’s Foundation

What are your future plans?

To build our online shop, engage companies through group volunteer events (sorting and selling at markets post COVID), and eventually to open a large scale thrift store in Dubai, raising significant funding for children around the world.

How important is it for you to have volunteers?

100% important. We are currently completely volunteer led. We cap our expenses at 25% and even then strive to keep overheads as low as possible. All of the steps in processing the donations is fairly labour intensive and none of it could be done without our community of wonderful volunteers.

Is zero waste an achievable goal?

Yes, absolutely and we are nearly there. Our packaging is a reusable bag sponsored by Bags of the Future, our boxes are procured second hand and recycled afterwards. What we cannot sell, we upcycle into something new. We also offset our carbon emissions by planting trees.

We still need to find a solution for the bags donors give us their items in and what to do with items like broken toys etc, but we do absolutely everything we can to reduce our waste and strive to be zero waste as we take on more types of items and grow.

“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” – Anne-Marie Bonneau

What has been the impact of the pandemic?

It definitely changed our whole business plan. We weren’t thinking of going online until 2021 truth be told, but without markets, events and bulk buyers, we decided to adapt quickly and start online. This is the best thing we could have done because it has meant starting social media and actively reaching out to acquire new donors, volunteers and customers.

How important was it to incorporate sustainable practices in this initiative?

50% of our purpose is to reduce waste, in addition to raising funds. It only works if we holistically incorporate good practices that take care of our environment.

Can you share some stats with us in terms of waste i.e. how much do we throw away and how much of this is actually either reusable or recyclable?

The amount of resources that go into producing items is staggering. For example, cotton is a thirsty crop and one shirt consumes 2700L of water (WWF). When the fibres are produced from oil, like polyester, the emissions from one shirt is 5.5kg (Greenpeace 2019). What is more, most of our clothing takes nearly 80 years to decompose. We are purchasing more now in history than ever before and using it for significantly less. Fast fashion produces an astounding 12.8 million tonnes of waste per year globally (Environmental Protection Agency, 2013).

In our experience 100% of the textiles we encounter have more life to live. The majority are still in perfect condition and ready to go up on our website. Others have slight wear and sell well at the market. That which is damaged and stained make for very good rags or to be upcycled into something new.

It takes work to become 100% responsible for the lifeline of your items, but it is achievable. Second hand offers a way to extend the life of usable items while also enjoying the thrill of shopping. In our opinion, it is the way forward!

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Jennifer Sault, founder at Thrift for Good.

With a background in non-profit administration and fundraising (including as former Operations Manager of Gulf4Good), Jennifer learned that the biggest barrier for great projects is funding. Yet, there are so many wonderful supportive people interested in giving their used items to a good cause.

Thrift for Good is a social enterprise born from the vision of a world with zero waste where everyone has what they need to thrive. It exists to fuel meaningful projects by reselling donated items.