Do you have a closet brimming with clothes? Clothes you don’t wear? How many times have you done a closet cleanse, put your clothes in a bag, and taken it to a donation bin only to find it is overflowing with clothes? Especially in the spring. Even consignment shops are brimming with clothes. The local non-profit where I volunteer is trying to find a place for the clothes being donated as they have so much surplus clothing. The office is brimming with clothes!
What’s the Problem?
According to the documentary True Cost, we purchase 400 percent more clothing today than we did 20 years ago, largely because of the dropping cost of fashion. Fast Fashion is the term used. The emphasis is on optimizing certain aspects of the supply chain in order for these trends to be designed and manufactured quickly and inexpensively to allow the mainstream consumer to buy current clothing styles at a lower price. H&M, Zara, and Topshop are prime examples of “fast fashion” brands.
True Cost also points out that the average American tosses 82 pounds of textile waste each year, which adds up to 11 million tons of clothing from our country alone. For the most part, these textiles aren’t biodegradable, which means they sit in landfills for at least 200 years. Here’s the ugly picture.
What’s the answer?
Well, the most obvious answer is this – stop buying new clothes unless your old clothing wears out or doesn’t fit anymore. However, we know that isn’t going to happen as fast as it needs to! Think about this – the global fashion industry’s annual revenue is $1.2 trillion/year.
Companies are Doing Something
Many companies have a vision to be a close-loop or 100% circular company meaning absolutely no waste. H&M, one of the largest brands worldwide, has a vision to be 100% circular. Although their business model is based on ‘fast fashion’ which is inherently unsustainable, they are trying to make sure no textiles go to landfills. In 2013, H&M launched a garment collecting initiative and, since then, they have collected over 22,000 tons of garments.
H&M isn’t the only company, there are many others. Eileen Fisher is another company with a corporate vision of being close-looped. Eileen’s vision is:
“…for a closed-loop company that designs into sustainability from the very beginning all the way through to our recycling program—and now, our upcycling program.”
Many times I’ve featured the Indigenous brand as each piece of the line is classic, well made, and timeless. And every time you wear them, you step out of the fast fashion cycle; helping communities instead of exploiting workers; preserving our environment instead of creating waste and destruction.
How Can We Help?
The first way to help is to shop smart. Buy less clothes and buy clothes that will last so they’ll stay in your closet longer.
Secondly, don’t throw textiles in your garbage or trash. Take your clothes to a donation center, a consignment shop, or back to a store with a re-use program. H&M will take any type of textile in their donation bins. These unwanted garments will ultimately be transformed into insulation, carpet padding, as well as being used to produce other garments.
Third, if you’re buying new clothing, buy from a company who has a sustainability program. Especially a company who designs sustainability into their design from the beginning.
Eventually, we will be wearing more and more clothing from recycled material. Look at Emma Watson’s stunning gown which she wore at this year’s Costume Institute, a Calvin Klein design made from recycled plastic bottles.
Remember, looking good should do good too. It fits right in with my motto. . .