By Contributor Jade Tyra
In a world that is obsessed with fashion and celebrity worship culture, the demand for different articles of clothing rises at a very high rate. Clothing companies are rapidly making new clothes to fulfill these demands. Affordable and accessible, this industry is called fast fashion, and truthfully, it sounds great! So why are so many people, particularly younger generations, refusing to buy their clothes from these companies?
Journalist Elizabeth L. Cline, author of “Overdressed,” one of the first books to criticize fast fashion, says that US citizens are purchasing 5 times the amount of clothing than they did in the 1980s. Zara offers 24 new clothing collections each year, while H&M offers 12 to 16 and refreshes them weekly.
This market is thriving while the average American family throws away 70 pounds of textile waste every year. The overconsumption of these readily available fashion products is the reason why we have so many articles of clothing going to the dump or being burned.
According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation, the annual greenhouse gas emissions related to textile production equate to nearly 1.2 billion tons.
With a younger generation that sees the need to reduce its support of environmentally damaging industries, thrifting has become a trendy way to shop for “new” clothes. Goodwill, an American nonprofit funded by an international chain of thrift shops, takes in roughly $5.9 billion in annual revenue. According to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops (NARTS), the thrifting industry is growing at a rate of 7 percent per year. We can see that the sales of sustainable and community-sourced businesses are skyrocketing as people are becoming more aware of the impact that their purchases have on the environment.
Many others are turning to a more modern way of thrifting, apps such as Depop, ThredUp, Mercari, and Poshmark allow users to buy and sell used clothes.
13-year-old Lucia Paulsen from Charlotte, NC has pledged to not support fast fashion. She said, “As an environmental justice activist, I understand the need to boycott fast fashion… we have an excess amount of fossil fuels used, water pollution, use of toxic chemicals, and textile waste.” Paulsen shops almost exclusively in thrift stores because “buying your clothes used is one of the most cost-effective and simple ways to boycott fast fashion.”
The Consumer vs The Industry
When discussing environmental issues, it is easy to place blame on consumers for using plastic straws, eating meat, or buying from fast-fashion retailers. Though avoiding any or all of these are amazing steps in your personal journey, it is also important to remember that the 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions from textile production are not the individuals’ fault.
Industries whose only interest is to commodify products without any regard for the environment are the real problem. The goal should be to abolish these companies, support legislation to combat climate change, lobby against corporate interests, and boycott the industries causing these problems.
So buy your clothes from thrift stores or sustainable community businesses, but don’t stop there. Take steps to make a change in your community and prioritize the safety of our planet.