According to the Environmental Protection Agency, textiles take up about 5% of all landfill space in the United States. Much of that percentage is made up of clothing that gets thrown away. Thanks to fast fashion brands like Forever 21, H&M, and Zara, it’s easier than ever to buy inexpensive clothes quickly and to get rid of them just as fast. Unfortunately, treating clothes like they are easily dispensable will continue to cause problems in our already-full landfills.
So, what can you do to reduce the amount of clothing you buy while reusing or recycling what you already own, and how will it impact the future?
Why is Fast Fashion a Problem?
Fast fashion refers to clothes that are often cheaply made in mass quantities. They are typically made overseas and shipped to the U.S., which, in itself, causes environmental issues.
Fast fashion tends to be a problem because the clothes are usually of low quality. That means they can break down quickly. Whether the threading comes undone, they tear, or they just wear out after a few washes, it’s likely you’re not going to get years of use out of a shirt from a fast-fashion brand. On the surface, it’s a smart marketing technique; these stores create inexpensive clothes that young adults can afford. In turn, the clothes wear out quickly, and the consumer goes back to buy more.
From a sustainability standpoint, the overproduction of low-quality clothing contributes to everything from carbon emissions to excessive waste.
What Habits Can You Change?
It’s hard to turn on the news nowadays without hearing something about climate change, pollution, or how grim the future might look if changes aren’t made. The reality of our planet’s ecological future and trying to do your part might sometimes feel overwhelming.
It’s easy to feel helpless and hopeless when so much bad news surrounding our environment is shown every day, but the good news is there are things you can do to make a difference, including managing your fashion choices with three simple steps:
- Don’t buy as much clothing. That might mean you have to avoid fast-fashion stores and opt for more sustainable clothing brands including Levi, Everlane, and Patagonia. Not only do sustainable brands use more eco-friendly practices in creating their clothing, but they tend to be higher-quality so the clothes will last longer. If you treat shopping for clothing as shopping for only what you need, not only will be helping the environment, but you’ll be saving money and helping out your wallet.
- If you have old clothes that you’re not going to wear anymore, don’t throw them away! If they’re in good condition, donate them to a local thrift store or homeless shelter where they can be reused by someone else.
- If you have articles of clothing that can’t be worn (ie; they have holes, they’re worn out), find ways to recycle them. Tear a t-shirt into pieces and use it as a cleaning rag that you can wash and reuse instead of using paper towels. Determine if the materials can be composted. You can even look into textile recycling programs in your area that may be able to use the material for something including creating new clothes without having to start from scratch.
What Can You Teach?
Many popular fashion brands target teens and young adults including ones we’ve already discussed like Forever 21 and H&M. Teens spend about $2,600 each year on food and clothes, so it’s important for them to know exactly what they’re spending their money on so they can make more eco-conscious choices.
As a parent, teaching your children about the importance of sustainability can help them to make better choices for their future and for the future of the following generations. Youth environmental activism is one of the best ways for our planet to see positive changes. Children and teens today are faced with a planet that is suffering from climate change, poor air quality, and pollution. The more you educate your children and teens now about the importance of sustainable fashion, sustainable food practices, and other eco-friendly ways of living, the cleaner and greener the future will be.
When you start to make reducing, reusing, and recycling your clothes a part of your own life, you can encourage positive changes and habits within your own family, too. The more people who get involved, the better the results when it comes to the health of our planet.