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Style > Fashion

Wearing Used Clothing to Practice Sustainability

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

For most of my life, my wardrobe has consisted of either hand-me-downs or thrifted pieces. I very rarely buy brand-new items, and if I do, they are shoes or underwear. Not only do these habits limit my spending, but they also are more sustainable than only buying clothing that has never been worn. 

The Environmental Argument

It might not seem like it, but that new shirt you want takes a lot of water, dyes, and labor to make, and that’s not including the environmental impact which comes with transporting goods. According to the Geneva Environment Network, “fashion production makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes rivers and streams.” We don’t see much of these effects because most of our goods are produced in foreign countries, such as Bangladesh and China. Not to mention, “85% of all textiles go to the dump each year” because people tend to over-buy clothing, most of which they rarely or never wear (UNECE, 2018). Thus, by thrifting, sharing clothes with friends, and donating old pieces rather than throwing them away, you can help decrease the environmental impact from the fashion industry. 

The Budget Argument

Because of inflation and the negative impacts of textile production on the environment, I am limiting my spending on clothing more than ever. Not that my retail therapy has come to a halt, but now I find myself spending more time searching the racks of donation-based-stores like Goodwill and Plato’s Closet rather than more mainstream companies like Target and Urban Outfitters. Not only that, but once I grow out of my clothes I like to give them to friends, just like they give me their old clothes, to save money. 

So, in honor of our sustainability theme week, I decided to make five outfits of used clothing. 

For this first outfit I got my sweater from Plato’s Closet and was given my shirt and pants by a friend. You would probably never know that everything but my shoes, underwear, and jewelry is used!

I was super excited to find Pearl Izumi bike shorts at Goodwill one day, and I wear them pretty much every week when I teach my cycle classes. My Nike tank and gray workout jacket are also from Goodwill. And best of all, my sports bra is a hand-me-down!

My pants are Forever 21 hand-me-downs from a friend and both my shirt and button down are from Goodwill. The scarf on my head is a hand-me-down from my mom. 

I got this dress from Plato’s Closet, which I paired with my favorite white sweater which I thrifted in Poland. My rings are hand-me-downs from a friend and I inherited my anklet from my late grandmother. 

For this lazy Saturday outfit I am wearing the comfiest sweats and an Ann Taylor LOFT tank from Goodwill. Talk about a score! 

While the quality of brand new fabrics are much better than clothing from thrift stores or hand-me-downs, I struggle to justify spending money on overpriced clothing I know I can find elsewhere. By opting to wear used clothing rather than always buying brand new products, I am not only saving money, but practicing sustainable fashion. So, the next time you need some retail therapy, why not stop by Goodwill?

Lanaya Oliver

CU Boulder '24

Lanaya Oliver is the Editor-in-Chief and a contributing writer at the Her Campus Chapter at the University of Colorado at Boulder. As Editor-in-Chief, she oversees a team of editors, is the lead publisher and editor, and works as a campus corespondent. Outside of Her Campus, Lanaya is a senior at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is double majoring in both Psychology and Spanish with a minor in Sports Media. Her writing career started in high school when she was elected the position of school wide poet laureate after winning a poetry contest in her sophomore year. Now Lanaya’s writing has evolved from creative pieces to profiles and articles for her Her Campus articles. In her personal life, Lanaya is an ACE certified personal trainer and teaches both cycle and barre classes. Fitness is her passion and more often than not she can be found lifting weights, riding a bike, or running. She also enjoys being outdoors, binge watching movies, spending time with friends, thrift shopping, and munching on any white cheddar flavored snack she can find. Lanaya hopes to find a balance between her love for writing and her dreams of working in the fitness industry in her future career.