Like many before her, Amanda McCarty had a come-to-Jesus moment during an impromptu trip to furnishing-and-decor megastore HomeGoods. 

It was there, among the endless aisles of vases and picture frames, with stacks of throw pillows looming, that she realized: “I was looking around like, ‘Oh my God. So this is where all the stuff at Goodwill comes from.’ ” 

HomeGoods falls outside the rotation of Texas thrift stores and antique malls where McCarty, who lives in Austin, purchases most of her clothing and home decor. Although she unequivocally loves clothes and has fifteen years of experience working in the fashion industry as a buyer for major corporations such as ModCloth, Nasty Gal, and Urban Outfitters, McCarty no longer buys anything new that she can instead buy used. 

You know your friend who worked at a fast food restaurant in high school and has refused to stop for a burger there since? McCarty saw how the sausage gets made—and has now sworn off poorly made sweaters. While she knows that not everyone has decades of peering behind the veil of fashion enterprise to inform their purchasing decisions, she’s hopeful sharing what she’s learned is enough to sway the average consumer, or at least get them thinking about the story behind what they’re buying. 

McCarty’s podcast Clotheshorse bills itself as “the podcast that loves clothes but hates capitalism,” and in its 187 episodes has covered a wide range of topics related to fashion sustainability and overconsumption, including what happens when you return something, Halloween costumes, stretchy jeans, and why your new sweater is destined to become garbage. McCarty had the idea for the podcast after she found herself unemployed and spending a lot of time on Reddit, explaining how the fashion industry actually runs, in gossip threads about fashion influencers.

Although the podcast kicked off with an acute focus on fashion, McCarty sees the model of fast fashion mirrored in a variety of industries, and has broadened the show’s scope with episodes on companies like Bath and Body Works, Target, and Walmart. “It can be really overwhelming to see things happening in the world that you know are not good—to be awake at night thinking about climate change and microplastics, worker exploitation, just all these horrible things that are happening in the world,” McCarty said. “The fashion industry is a really good case study of all of it, but they’re happening in every industry at this point. Everything has been fast fashion–ified. I call it ‘fast everything.’ People are asking themselves, ‘What can I, this one person, do to fight back to Amazon?’ The reality is when all of us join together and make these choices and have these conversations at the same time it’s incredibly powerful.”

Clotheshorse has amassed over 30,000 followers on Instagram, where McCarty uses vintage illustrations of kittens and horses and bold pink typeface to share educational tips for resisting fast fashion and cheery checks on consumerism, such as, “You don’t need a suitcase of new clothes for your next trip!”

Originally from Pennsylvania, McCarty has lived in Texas for two years, but will soon move back to her home state. Topping the list of things she’ll miss about Texas is the state’s vintage playground. “This state is full of incredible secondhand items of all categories: home goods, clothing, books, you name it. There are so many places to get them, but I always have to shout out Taylor, Texas.” McCarty said. “When I first moved here I was just amazed by all the incredible vintage, Western-inspired stuff. There are better cookbooks at the thrift stores here, too. And glassware for literally every occasion; it’s very clear that Texans really know how to cook and host.”

To help us prepare for the holiday rush, McCarty shared her go-to tips for gift-buying with sustainability in mind:

Turn to resellers.

It’s not too late, but you’re gonna have to refine your approach a little bit. You have to be realistic about the time that you have left. When it comes to secondhand gifting, I would really say look to Etsy, and check out eBay. Keep a close eye on shipping dates to make sure those line up. We always joke about it in my house—the moment you say out loud that you are actively looking for something is when you won’t see it for six months, but you probably saw it last week. Rather than getting yourself stressed and driving around to a bunch of thrift stores, hoping that you will have that light bulb moment and find that perfect item, now is a great time to turn to the other small businesses within our communities. Go to an antique mall, which sounds fancy and expensive, but is just a collective of small-business resellers. They’re always repaired, clean, and ready to go.

Gift people what they want, rather than what is convenient or available.

You’re going to have people in your life who are going to be very stoked to receive a vintage glassware set or a cookbook, or some other secondhand item. There are other people in your life who are gonna be like, “I don’t understand this. I don’t like glasses. I don’t cook. Why did I get this?” It’s better to make sure you know, and—so those items aren’t a waste—really give them what they want. That can be as specific as saying, “Hey, would you give me a list?” Or giving them money so they can buy what they want. And honestly, if they use that to pay their phone bill, great.

Move outside the “stuff” realm.

Food is an incredible gift. It can be a really nice meal or snacks that you’ve made, or baked goods. Or an experience: a membership to a museum, online classes, or even just one course where you learn how to do pottery. Or a gift card or gift certificate to a place you like that you think they will like. It doesn’t even have to be anything that you’re spending money on: for example, here’s a little gift certificate for you to come over and I’ll teach you how to knit and cook you dinner.