In the last 20 years, convenience has become as much of a commodity as the goods or services themselves. Subscription boxes, for example, have taken almost every industry by storm. Now, you can have clothes, snacks, drinks, games, and more delivered to you on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis just by signing up online. If we want it, we can usually get it in 1-3 business days and with some sort of promo code.
For our clothes, this means that factories are producing 400% more garments than they were in the early 2000’s. Previously, most fashion brands would produce 2 collections each year, now, fast-fashion staples like H&M and Forever 21 are creating 4-12 collections a year. While more choices may seem more exciting, it also begs several questions like - how is this possible? Where are all these materials coming from? And where does it all go when people don’t buy it?
How does “fast fashion” impact our open spaces?
To accommodate such an increase in demand, big-name companies have sourced materials, labor, and resources from various sources, often utilizing emergent nations with less-stringent environmental restrictions for processing waste. 90% of waste waters in developing countries are discharged directly to the environment with no purification (source). Gross.
On top of contaminating this natural resource, the fashion industry claims approximately 1.5 trillion gallons of water each year to source and manufacture garments. It takes about 2,000 gallons of water to produce just one pair of jeans, which is equivalent to one person drinking eight cups per day for 10 years (source).
In addition, every time we wash a synthetic garment, about 1,900 individual microfibers are released into the water and make their way to our oceans, food, and drinking water. Synthetic fibers, such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon, are plastic fibers, meaning they are non-biodegradable and can take up to 200 years to decompose. Synthetic fibers are used in 72% of the clothing being produced today.
How does thrifting make a positive impact?
“The State of Fashion: 2019,” an annual report released by Business of Fashion and the McKinsey Company, highlighted the push for brand accountability, stating that 65% of consumers demanded transparency and authenticity in company values alongside predicting an overall shift in buyer preferences towards ethical and sustainable purchasing.
By purchasing used clothing and textiles, you can support community organizations while reducing fast fashion’s overall impact on the environment. Less demand means less supply, and every bit helps. In 2019 alone, Forever 21 closed over 350 stores due to bankruptcy. With a projected shift to more sustainable brands, even those buying new items can contribute to a more eco-friendly future by choosing brands that prioritize lessening their planetary impact.
Through thrifting, stewarding your open spaces can be just as effective at home as it is at a community cleanup.Supporting local, second-hand stores vitally impacts small businesses and service organizations in the community, especially during COVID-19. By donating your gently-used clothing, shoes, and home goods, you keep these items out of landfills and make them more accessible to others in need. While fast-fashion may seem insurmountable, evaluating our daily choices can truly make the biggest little difference.
Local places you can thrift from:
While shopping secondhand, you can boost community development by supporting local shops. Thrift stores provide employment in retail outlets as well as donation centers, creating more jobs and providing support for vital community projects in need of support.
Check out these options before pursuing big staples like Goodwill and Salvation Army!
Online thrifting and COVID-19 alternatives:
If going into a physical store is not an option for you, try opting for online thrift stores like ThredUp! This is a great option for buying, selling, and donating gently-used clothing and shoes. Not only can you search by brand, color, size, and more, but you can also send in your “closet clean out” to post for consignment or be donated to charities in need. ThredUp also utilizes eco-friendly shipping bundles and packaging. To learn more about their sustainable practices, click here.
Another great resource for online thrifting is browsing through the awesome small-business owners on Instagram, Etsy, Depop, or Poshmark! These social media platforms allow for user-friendly buying, selling, and reselling of homemade goods and gently-used items. Not only is this setup accessible for thrift owners and customers, but it’s also a little bit safer for those of us staying at home. Check out some of my favorites from 2020!
Thrifting has played a large part in my life since I can remember, but in the last two years I’ve been able to transition my wardrobe to almost completely second hand. With so many restrictions from COVID-19 this year, thrifting online has been a wonderful way to meet new people who are equally passionate about sustainability, conservation, and accessibility while making a positive impact on the open spaces I hold so dear.
To learn more about the impact of fast fashion on the environment, check out the resources below! Follow us on social media to explore more ways of keeping your parks healthy with our September Stewardship Challenge. Happy Stewarding!
The State of Fashion 2020 Report
The State of Fashion 2019 Report
Fashionopolis by Dana Thomas Forbes Review
Sustain Your Style: Environmental Impacts of Fast Fashion