Prior to this article, I rarely thought about what happened when you threw clothes away. With my unwanted clothes, I either gave it to a friend or donated it to the local thrift store. Certainly, there were rare times where I thought an item was unfit to be a hand-me-down, and would then throw it away. However, that was rare, thus I never truly thought about the full lifecycle of clothing, nor did I really care.
That was my mistake.
In a module, I learned how over a million tonnes of clothing are thrown out in the UK every year. We explored in depth how corporations can help to alleviate the problem. Nonetheless, as I’ve come to realise, it’s not just the responsibility of the corporation – it’s our responsibility too.
Yes, even consumers have a responsibility to not add to the problem.
Why is throw-away culture a problem?
There is a direct link between the global pollution crisis and throw-away culture. As they decompose, clothes release greenhouse gases (which includes methane and carbon dioxide).
Ideally, greenhouse gases help to trap warmth in the atmosphere, keeping us at livable temperatures. Meanwhile, plants take in carbon dioxide and then release oxygen, helping to ensure that there is always a safe level of greenhouse gases.
However, we’ve started to produce more greenhouse gases, while also cutting down more trees, creating an imbalance. Currently, we are in the midst of an environmental crisis. The impact of this is evident through the extreme weather conditions that many countries have experienced. As such, we need to do something.
What can we do?
The increasing demand for fast fashion is definitely something that needs to change. As someone who loves a new outfit, I understand how one can struggle with this. Fast fashion is regularly thrown away after a few wears due to its low quality. Fast fashion companies continue to produce more to meet demand, but we can decrease our part in demand for fast fashion.
- Swap clothes
If you know someone your size, just swap with them whenever you’re ready to let go of an item. You can have swap parties, where a group of you get together with your pre-loved items and simply trade between one another. It’s an excuse to meet up and you get “new” items for free!
2. Purchase from thrift shop
I can personally attest that thrift shops are a source of hidden gems. You really never know what you’re going to find in a thrift shop, but that’s what makes it exciting! It can quickly become a fun game, especially when you find the one item you never know you needed. You can also find items that haven’t even been worn and still get them for a really good price.
3. Donate to thrift shops
I donate because I know my items are worthy of a new home. It also makes me feel like I’m participating in my community. Thrift shops are involved in charity work and provide lower income families access to clothing that they may not have been able to afford. Beyond the local impact, many thrift shops are a part of large organisations who ship the clothes that aren’t sold, to countries with high poverty levels so that the people there have access to quality clothing as well.
Also, bonus idea: when it comes to the clothing you think is absolutely unfit, turn it into scrap material. You can use it as a cloth for cleaning or be creative and use it in a DIY project.
You can start now
I am well aware that the problem is big – over a million tonnes of clothing is a lot. However, we each have a role to play and even if you’re contributing only one shirt to the massive amount of clothes thrown away, that means there’s still room for you to help make a difference.