According to the EPA, each American on average threw out 70 pounds of textile waste in 2014. That’s 15 million tons of discarded clothing and accessories a year that we’re unnecessarily filling our landfills with. Textile waste does not decompose – even if it’s made from natural fibers – due to the heavy chemical treatments that goes into bleaching and dyeing the materials. These chemicals then leach into the groundwater and release toxins into the air. The environmental devastation the fashion industry creates doesn’t end with production. The problem persists long after the garment is consumed and even discarded.
The statistics ring true for me. In the past year I moved into a new apartment and in the process, filled 5 large boxes with unwanted clothing, shoes and accessories. Luckily, I was able to ensure that my unwanted items found good homes through family friends and with the Salvation Army, but I was still left with a sinking sense of guilt as yet another box was filled to the brim with clothing I had often only worn a handful of times (or not at all). How much of my time and money had I squandered on this superfluous stuff? Now sadly reduced to cardboard boxes on the curb awaiting SA pickup?
Of course, I had my reasons to purge my closet of this stuff – and they were good reasons too. . . mostly. The majority were cheaply-made from fast-fashion retailers, so after a few washes the fabric was faded or distorted and no longer resembled anything close to the original garment I had purchased. I had reasons to discard the designer items as well. After years of working in fashion and living in N.Y. and L.A., I had been known to get enchanted by the “amazing deals” at sample sales and outlet stores, walking away with clothing that didn’t actually look very flattering on me but boasted a designer label. Other items were simply off-trend so I no longer wanted them. I can’t be seen in a peplum dress or waterfall cardigan, everyone will think I’m poor!
The lesson I learned (and continue to learn everyday) is think twice before consuming. When you do need a new piece of clothing or would really like to partake in a new trend, consider how you could get the item used first. My orange bomber jacket is a great example of that. Bomber jackets are absolutely everywhere now, but instead of pulling the trigger on a new one, I stayed patient because I knew I could find a second hand version at a thrift store – and I did! Vintage bombers are so much cooler than new ones anyway. The impact may seem small, but a collective shift in consciousness can change the world – and that starts within each of us.
Photos by @sdrpick.