Americans throw away 14 million tons of clothing every year. Excuse me, what? 14 million tons?! The whirlwind industry known as “fast fashion” has created a crisis of textile waste in the United States because consumers are caught in a constant frenzy for the latest trendy item. This must stop.
In this post, I am going to share five tips to green your wardrobe. (And no, one of those tips isn’t to wear more green.)
If you’re reading this, you probably own more than your fair share of clothing. Here in the United States, arguably the most consumeristic country on the planet, we’re surrounded by a culture which encourages our desire for more. We already consume more than our fair share of energy, oil, and food, so clothing follows suit. Fortunately, cutting back on the number of items in an already-overflowing closet is possible. Meet the capsule wardrobe.
Made trendy by minimalist movements, a capsule wardrobe contains a core of versatile clothing which can be paired to create many different outfits. The benefits of a capsule wardrobe include: less stress over deciding what to wear, fewer loads of laundry, and the ease of owning less. Capsule wardrobes can be created based on the season or occasion you are dressing for, or the ultimate minimalist might choose to live with only one capsule wardrobe.
When downsizing, it is important to make conscious decisions which keep textiles out of the waste stream. Many opportunities exist to sell, donate, or recycle clothing.
- Sell: At local consignment shops or online to ThredUP, com, Amazon, or Ebay.
- Donate: To thrift stores, charities, clothing drives, and churches in your community.
- Recycle: Through organizations like USAgain or SMART.
- Shop Second Hand
I love thrift stores. They are full of great deals and quirky finds which make for a unique and affordable wardrobe, and thrift stores reduce the amount of clothing in the textile stream by curbing supply and demand. When shopping local, look for thrift stores which support community initiatives or charities, but when in doubt, you can always stop by a Goodwill or Salvation Army to look for some hidden gems. If you aren’t sold on your local second-hand stores, start off which some upscale options which carry exclusively pre-owned brand name clothing, like Plato’s Closet.
- Organics vs. Synthetics
Creating an environmentally-friendly closet involves conscious choices about materials. Traditional cotton is often soaked in pesticides which harm the areas where crops are grown. Chemical residue can also persist in the fabric long after the cotton is harvested. Synthetics such as polyester, rayon, and nylon are derived from oil—a resource quickly being depleted. Alternatives to these fabrics include organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, recycled textiles, and wool. Natural fabrics are healthy for the planet and the body, not to mention soft and comfortable.
The fast fashion industry puts many of the world’s most vulnerable people at risk by employing them in sweatshops. Many large clothing manufacturers rely on unsafe factories which force laborers into hazardous conditions. To live more ethically, it is vital to avoid financially supporting companies which use child labor, forced labor, or any practice which drastically decreases human flourishing or the sustainability of the planet. Use these tools to find out where your clothing comes from. Instead of continuing to buy from unethical sources, look for companies which seek ethical business practices, pay fair wages, and commit themselves to environmental responsibility. While clothing from these companies will likely be more expensive, its overall cost to people and the planet will be much lower. Soul Flower and The Girlfriend Collective are a couple online shops I really like.
The sad fact is, clothes aren’t made to last anymore. Fast fashion relies on cheap clothing which wears out quickly. Instead of ditching every item that rips or stains, save it! I’ve benefited tremendously from the ability to patch a hole, resew a seam, or fix a button. Through learning and passing on these skills, we can combat the textile waste crisis. Upcycling is another fun way to get creative with clothing, and projects exist for people of all levels of crafting ability.