Retail Resale

Learn how to shop zero-waste while remaining fashion-forward in today’s clothing market.

Photo by Getty Images/SolStock

Clothing has always been my source of inspiration and a way to cultivate my sense of self. Used clothing in particular lets me play and explore with my style, while helping me incorporate fashion into my zero-waste lifestyle. Buy-sell-trade stores are wonderful places to shop because they help reduce the fashion industry’s carbon footprint. They keep older clothing in circulation, and give people the opportunity to replenish and refresh their wardrobes without buying new items.

As the manager of a buy-sell-trade clothing store, I can speak to the positive ways that shopping for, gifting, and donating used clothing affects our communities and our planet. For example, used clothing is full of possibility and potential; it’s unique, affordable, and far more environmentally friendly than buying brand-new garments. Trends come and go as quickly as the seasons, but true style can last a lifetime.

Dangerous Mass Production

We live in an era of “fast fashion” and mass production, where retailers are constantly churning out newly manufactured clothes to keep up with the demand for trendy pieces. Most of the clothing produced today is poorly made, and quickly becomes worn or out of style. Participating in the fast-fashion cycle means participating in an industry with a mindset built on disposable clothing and disregard for our environment. Fast-fashion retailers, such as Forever 21, Target, and Walmart, are constantly churning out new designs, sometimes on a weekly basis. Inexpensive synthetic fibers and exploitative labor practices allow them to produce clothing at alarming rates.

Photo by Getty Images/Suwaree Tangbovornpichet

The processes and equipment involved in mass clothing production use vast amounts of water and other natural resources. According to National Geographic, it takes approximately 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt; that’s enough drinking water to sustain one person for about 2-1/2 years. The dyes and chemicals used often end up in the water systems surrounding the factories, damaging the health of the textile workers and those living in the area. Producing synthetic fibers, such as polyester, also wreaks havoc on the environment. While the process doesn’t guzzle as much water as the natural fiber industry, synthetic fiber production emits more greenhouse gases. In 2015 alone, polyester production generated 1.5 trillion pounds of greenhouse gases. This fast fashion cycle is grossly unsustainable.

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