Circular Thrift is a sustainable clothing business, social activity and charitable organization all wrapped in one. Founder Lisa Goldsand, having 30 years of experience with the traditional supply chain model of fashion, honors and recognizes that fashion is an important piece of sustaining one’s self-esteem and self-expression, and is offering consumers a different way to think about clothing and personal style.
Goldsand’s goal is to reduce consumption, but it’s also to enable local communities to strive for zero waste in local textiles. Within one year, she has sorted over 11,000 pieces of clothing, 4,000 of which have been offered to an organization with some sort of charitable component.
How did Circular Thrift start? What gave you the idea to launch a business rooted in sustainability? I saw an opportunity to link people’s love for fashion with their love and commitment to their community. I want to make it fun and practical for people to recirculate their clothing rather than buying new.
Why is sustainable living important to you, particularly sustainable fashion? There are so many problems to solve in the world, and it can get into the “why bother?” territory of overwhelming. But we as humans are all connected, and what we do as individuals matters. Sustainable fashion is important to me personally because fashion is how we express ourselves, and solutions which will move the needle have to protect consumers’ love of adornment, their sense of civic responsibility and their need for convenience.
Tell me about the services and events offered with Circular Thrift. Circular Thrift offers publicly accessible drop bins, front-door pickup, community swap events, offline thrift pop-ups and an online store, all focused on making it convenient to find something pre-owned which you might otherwise buy new. I sort what I collect and evaluate the next best destination for each item. More than half of what I receive I organize and donate to an organization serving the local community.
Where did the tricycle come from? Why did you incorporate it into your business? I live my best life riding my trike around Bexley! I have always loved bicycles and attribute this in part to my Dutch heritage. The tricycle is a wonderful sales vehicle that draws a lot of interest and triggers organic conversation about sustainable fashion. Because of the flexibility which a mobile pop-up sales model brings, I see this as key to the expansion of Circular Thrift in other communities.
What challenges have you faced in getting Circular Thrift going? The biggest challenges I have faced are all tied to efficiency. I’ve worked hard to streamline the collection, sort clothing and [nail down the] swap process. It’s been really hard and really fun, and I think it’s working.
Do you expect to see mainstream brands make more inroads into the thrifting/secondhand clothes market? I hope so, but I’m not sure. It is challenging for global, publicly traded companies to figure out how to monetize pre-owned items when the traditional model relied upon by their shareholders involves selling new. They will first need to see consistent consumer demand for a different approach to end-of-life clothing. Grassroots, local efforts like Circular Thrift, which operationalize re-use, may prove to be helpful in shifting consumer behavior toward thrifting.
Brands do want to be a part of the future solution. Brands have been committing to get better at resale programs which are within their brand’s portfolio. I think we’ll see segmentation between luxury and lower-market brands [in the future].
What are your goals for 2024? My goal is to have partners in three or four neighborhoods in Columbus by the end of 2024 doing exactly what I’m doing in Bexley, so I am looking for leaders throughout Columbus who can be the representative of this mission in their community. Like Mary Kay, but for sustainable clothing.
I love this idea as an accessible way for someone to generate income; someone who may be at home with their kids, for example, and who loves the idea of having a positive environmental impact.
How can the community get involved with your organization? Volunteer. Come to a Circular Thrift event. Organize a Circular Thrift swap event in your community.
Follow Lisa Goldsand on Instagram at @circularthriftllc and learn more about her business at circularthrift.org.
This story is part of the Sustainable Living feature in the January 2024 issue of Columbus Monthly.