The most responsible thing you can do with buying clothes is, number one, buy used clothes. The damage has been done in making them.
-Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia
Making clothing is a linear process, meaning it follows a straight path from beginning to end. It begins with extracting resources (like fuel, coal, water, etc.) to produce a product (like a t-shirt), and after use, the product is disposed. Circular, on the other hand, in this instance means the product is recycled for another use. Aside from a few innovative companies changing the process, 95% of the apparel industry operates in a linear fashion, putting the onus of circularity on you, the consumer.
The real damage is done long before it’s in your hands. Those resources we mentioned above, they’re finite — they take thousands of years to form naturally. That’s why it’s not sustainable to continue to use them at such a nauseating pace. Fast fashion retailers have new product launches up to 26 times per year. No wonder the skirt you bought last month feels outdated. Not to mention, we should probably save those resources for things like electricity and roads, instead of the latest Gucci knock off.
The production state of garment making produces a ton of pollution and waste for something that will only be sold for two weeks, then worn fewer times than you have fingers. In a nutshell, we use precious non-renewable resources and produce excess pollution to make something that will end up in a Goodwill often within one year of its make.
Donating to a thrift store makes it circular, right? Wrong. That’s not recycling, or upcycling. Unwanted clothing lives temporarily in thrift stores and consignment shops — only about 20% is actually resold. The other 80% meets up in a landfill with the scraps leftover from production and excess unsold merchandise. There it will eventually turn into a destructive greenhouse gas called methane. Doesn’t really seem worth the impulse buy, does it?
Why is this important to you?
Shopping is a necessity, but for most of us it’s a hobby and a form of self-expression. The issue is when shopping becomes a habit: instead of going to your closet for something to wear on Friday night, you go to one of the many fast fashion stores instead because it’s cheap and newer feels better.
But what you should understand is shopping equals dollars spent, which equates to support of a person, a place and an industry. It’s a vote. So every time you buy something, you’re saying “I support you. I support how you chose to operate.”
Why is this important to us?
Action breeds change and we want to see change. Since we are not in the business of making clothes, we decided to take action from a position we felt we could actually effect. Increase clothing utilization.
The average garment should be worn at a minimum 30 times, even though most can withstand 200 wears. We know clothes are not getting that much use because we were guilty of it too. How do we fulfill our adoration for the fashion industry and stand behind the necessary eco-conscious movement? Closet sharing.
What should you do with your old clothes?
Yes, we know at some point clothes need to be discarded. And yes, we also told you that donating to some places doesn’t make you as gold-hearted as you thought. We were just as perplexed when our charitable bubble burst too. If you happen to know that clothes you give to shelters or other organizations are all passed to those in need, then by all means keep on donating! But if you’re uncertain, or just want a guaranteed solution, look to our partners RewearAble. RewearAble keeps unwanted clothing and fabric materials out of landfills by sorting and preparing everything they collect for reuse or repurposing. To make them even more lovable, RewearAble is committed to helping people with learning and developmental disabilities pursue enviable lives through employment. Created by non-profit Adults and Children with Learning and Developmental Disabilities (ACLD), RewearAble is our first choice when disposing of clothing, shoes, accessories, bedding, towels - nearly any textile! The next time you find yourself with a pile to donate, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you a pre-paid shipping label to send your things directly to RewearAble.