August 25th is National Secondhand Wardrobe Day! Today we celebrate reusing clothing and keeping it from ending up in landfills for just a little bit longer. This is important, as the fashion industry is a large contributor to many negative environmental impacts, like different kinds of pollution, water consumption, energy consumption, pesticide overuse, and microfiber contamination.
Environmental sustainability has become more important to consumers as we become more aware of what we are doing to the earth. The fashion industry produces over 92 million tons of waste each year and consumes 79 trillion liters of water. The production of artificial fiber fabrics like polyester, nylon, and fleece contribute to micro-plastic pollution at the factory and in your washing machine wastewater. Even growing cotton in large amounts requires a huge amount of water and also uses a lot of pesticides, which then wash into streams. Then there’s the dying process that involves harsh chemicals to get the colors to stick, shipping all over the world for cheap labor, not to mention the social costs. To give jeans a distressed look, they must be washed many times and abraded with chemicals to break down the fabrics quickly to get them to your local stores.
Fast fashion is the term given to the part of the fashion industry that places ephemeral trends above all and encourages the purchase of quickly changing, low-quality, and low-cost garments to keep up with the latest fashion trends. Many extremely popular stores participate in the practice of fast fashion. These popular brands have done very well in the previous decades as fashion technology has made fast fashion easier, but it comes at a cost.
We do need to wear clothes, but we can be selective in our choices to purchase as sustainably as possible. Buy durable pieces that will stand the test of time and will always look good. If you are going to buy something you intend to wear only a few times, check a secondhand store first. If you are tired of something you have only worn a few times, wash it and donate it to a secondhand store instead of throwing it in a landfill.