In the age of Fast Fashion, people around the world have seen an alarming increase in the number of textiles going to landfills. As of 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency shared that up to 3.2 million tons of textiles were torched and 11.3 million tons were sent to the landfill. While these numbers may seem high already, they have only continued to increase with the popularization of brands released from companies like Target, H&M, and Shein, just to name a few, also known as “Fast Fashion” brands.
But what exactly is Fast Fashion? In a 2021 blog post, Earth.org defined it as “a term used to describe cheap and low quality clothing that are rapidly produced and are cycled in and out the market quickly to meet new trends.”
So what’s the big deal? With online fashion trends changing on a near monthly basis, some of our most beloved brands are producing a high amount of clothing that, in many cases, heads to the landfill without ever being worn. Not only is the fashion industry one of the biggest contributors to waste in general, but it takes a lot of resources to generate enough output to keep up with the ever-changing fashion trends.
To put these ideas into perspective, here are some staggering statistics from the “Measuring Fashion” research study conducted by Quantis in 2018:
The apparel and footwear industries combined generated between 5 and 10% of global pollution impacts in 2016
Apparel generated 6.7% of global climate impacts; up to 3,290 million metric tons of CO2
Footwear generated 1.4% of global climate impacts; up to 700 million metrics tons of CO2
These industries combined are expected to increase their emissions up to 50% by 2030
The implications of these numbers are concerning to say the least, but it doesn’t have to be so doom and gloom. As the conversation surrounding Fast Fashion continues to gain more traction, consumers have started wanting to hold their favorite brands accountable and shift the way they’re buying clothing. Organizations like the World Resources Institute have started to advocate for more ethical and environmentally friendly ways to run fashion production. We are making a start towards change.
But with all of this said, you may be wondering “how do I buy clothes without impacting the environment?” After all, clothing is a necessity, and Fast Fashion brands offer low-cost garments that, let's face it, are stylish.
A great way to lower your personal carbon emissions when you buy clothes is to shop second-hand. Even buying one item of clothing second-hand can offset carbon emissions by a huge amount. This may sound intimidating but I am going to share some resources with you today to get you started on your journey towards being a more sustainable clothing shopper!
Shopping at local clothing exchanges and thrift stores is a fantastic way to be stylish and eco-friendly. Often, they will seasonally rotate clothes so they are more “on trend,” and even put off-season clothing on sale. Some clothes may seem well-loved and others may have been worn only once - you just have to be willing to look!
In Reno, some of my favorite thrift shops are the Freestyle Clothing Exchange in Midtown and Plato’s Closet on McCarran. I like these two options in particular because they sell trendier clothing items and accessories for reasonable prices. Since they accept items on a near daily basis, both stores are teeming with gems waiting to be found. If you’re into vintage, try visiting Junkee Clothing Exchange or Bad Apple Vntg in Midtown for some iconic throwback styles.
To make your life easier while browsing second-hand, take your measurements before you go so you know what size you’re looking for. I like to shamelessly take a measuring tape to help with those hard-to-find fits like jeans. If you’re ever unsure, make the time to try something on as you would at any other store!
Thrifting in person can be pretty exhausting, especially if you come up empty handed. Let me introduce you to an awesome website called ThredUp! ThredUp is an online thrift and consignment store that buys and sells second-hand items. But get this, you can filter your search by price, item, brand, color, and more. They have thousands of items for you to shop from, some of which will even still be new and with the tags still on. Think of the clothes you’re saving from the landfill!
If you’re not feeling the second-hand items, I get it. But, consider buying new clothes from brands who make an effort to more ethically and sustainably produce their garments. Check out this article from the Good Trade that has some recommendations for eco-friendly clothing. Brands like these may not always be the most budget-friendly but that doesn’t mean inexpensive sustainable clothing doesn’t exist! The key in being a sustainable shopper is doing research - look into a brand and see what pledges they’ve made to being environmentally friendly.
Otherwise, consider ways you can maintain your current wardrobe! Mending an item of clothing and extending its life is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and its affordable. Grab a small sewing kit for 5 bucks to fix that hole in your t-shirt. If you need a serious closet purge, donate your items to places like Goodwill or sell them for some quick cash at clothing exchanges and consignment stores.
Being fashionable shouldn’t have to be at the expense of the planet. Rethinking how we buy clothes can have a bigger impact than you’d think.
About the Author
Phoebe is a recent college graduate with a passion for sustainability-focused marketing. You may find her enjoying a stroll through the thrift store or rummaging through the yarn at the craft store.
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