As someone conscious of the negative impacts the fast fashion industry has on the environment, I’ve started to look for new avenues to shop for clothing more sustainably. Upon this search, I came across the web marketplace Poshmark. From using Poshmark and other online marketplaces, and being on both sides of the buy and sell process, I’ve seen a shift of interest from simply selling old used clothing, to selling clothing to promote the circular economy amongst sellers and consumers. While it seems that the idea of selling items from users closest to the consumer is sustainable, it's questionable if the company promotes the same values that some of its shoppers and sellers are practicing.
Poshmark is a resource for those who are interested in changing their consumption to shop more sustainably or secondhand, since supporting the circular economy in any way is more sustainable than buying new products. That being said, the company lacks information on its overall environmental impact.
Poshmark defines itself as a secondhand social marketplace for users to sell used items to consumers. While Poshmark's main focus is clothing, its marketplace has expanded to include homeware, beauty products, and more. Materials used in the products sold are made of anything, as there are no particular requirements on what products can be sold. As a result, clothing, shoes, and other items can be made from unsustainable materials like polyester, acrylic, leather, wood, etc. Another issue is that it's uncertain if the products being sold are genuinely second-hand from a user's closet, or if they're coming from other sources. It doesn't seem that Poshmark is doing anything to prevent this from happening, as there is no regulation on what can be posted. Although this is the case, according to Posh’s 2020 commerce report, second-hand clothing (clothes from thrift stores, consignment, and hand-me-downs, not including branded clothes from users closets) consists of about 40% of what’s being sold, and Gen Z shoppers are the most likely to consume this type of clothing. This isn't because of Poshmark's efforts, however, but the efforts of the users, which doesn’t mean the brand is contributing to sustainable shopping.
Poshmark's marketplace consists of single sellers across the US. Users take photos of their items and post them on the app for shoppers to purchase. Similar to other online marketplaces like eBay or depop, once the item is listed and bought, a label is provided for the user to ship the item to the buyer via a local post office. Shipping items across the US increases carbon emissions, which is one of the downfalls of shopping second-hand from an online platform. Since there are essentially no restrictions as to what can be sold on Poshmark, it seems that seeking out sustainable shopping methods falls on the shopper itself. There are plenty of users still selling and buying products from fast fashion brands which Poshmark doesn’t seem to have a problem with. Despite this, it still seems that some users do have good intentions when it comes to buying and selling products on Poshmark. But again, the responsibility still falls on the sellers and consumers to make sustainable choices, which doesn’t mean that Poshmark itself very sustainable.
Poshmark as a brand focuses more on the social aspect of buying and selling second-hand items than the impact they have on the environment. Poshmark’s focus is creating a community to allow users to transform their closet into a boutique with ease. The company emphasizes the Posh community and the interactions between the buyers and sellers of the app as its unique feature in comparison to other online e-commerce marketplaces. When conducting my analysis, there was little to no information from Poshmark when it comes to its stance on sustainability. For Earth Week, Poshmark did host virtual speakers promoting and educating their community on reducing the environmental impact when shopping and the idea of the circular economy, but other than that Poshmark doesn't present any sustainability initiatives or promote the idea of shopping sustainably anywhere on their website or reports.
While the brand doesn’t seem to focus on sustainable efforts, I still believe that it is a good way to start shopping more sustainably, since many of their users sell products second-hand. Especially if you're looking for a certain product or don't have access to shop second-hand locally, Poshmark is a better alternative than purchasing a product new. But I do think that Poshmark needs to provide more transparency to its users and prioritize sustainability within their company to truly be a sufficient option for shopping second-hand. I feel that a lot of people turn to Poshmark for a sustainable shopping alternative because of the appearance that most items are second-hand which isn’t necessarily the case. Because of this, when shopping for fashion items sustainably, I would recommend browsing local thrift or vintage stores. These stores not only include more second-hand clothing but are also a way to reduce pollution produced from shipping clothing bought online. This being said, Poshmark has increased access to shopping second-hand (which is a sustainable alternative to buying new products), but the company does not preach what some of its users practice.