Back in elementary school, you were probably taught the principle of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” and how it applies to your scrap paper and plastic water bottles, but you may not have known how it can apply to your clothes.
The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters of the Earth, with roughly 26 billion pounds of clothing and textiles being added to our landfills every year. Despite that jaw-dropping number, only around 15% of clothing is recycled or donated every year. Additionally, the fast-fashion industry puts out around 10% of carbon emissions, and relies on unethical labor to produce and manufacture clothing.
However, the fast-fashion industry thrives in college environments for many reasons. For example, there is a heavy pressure on college students to dress a certain way and wear certain styles of clothing. Not to mention, the fact that many college students operate on a very small budget. These fast-fashion options seem like a cost-effective way to stay on trend and fit in with classmates however, fast-fashion products tend to be made using lower quality materials, which means that they won’t last very long, and will eventually go right into the landfill.
So what’s the alternative? Thrifting and buying second-hand clothing is not only a great way to save money and curate a more unique wardrobe, but it’s also the most sustainable way to buy clothing. Additionally, thrifting has become super trendy in the past 3-4 years as fashion trends have begun to branch into a more colorful and eccentric territory (and yes, I do believe we can thank Miss. Emma Chamberlain for that).
Local thrift stores are always a great place to start your journey into creating a more sustainable wardrobe. In the Norfolk and Virginia Beach area, my favorite place to thrift is Thrift USA, which is a massive (and I mean MASSIVE) warehouse that’s filled to the brim with thousands of pieces of clothing at an insanely good price. Before you head into your first thrift store, it’s important to take a minute and focus on what types of things you are looking for so you don’t get overwhelmed because some of these places – especially your Goodwill’s, Salvation Army’s, and Savers – can be gigantic warehouses with more clothes that you can even begin to process. Keep an open mind and look for colors and textures you like, as well as keep an eye on the original tags, because so many name brand items end up buried away in thrift stores.
With online shopping taking off over the past year like never before, there’s a whole other world of possibilities when you check out some of the online second-hand clothing websites. Poshmark, Depop, ThredUp, and Curtsy are just a few of the dozens of “thrifting” apps that you can use to find second-hand clothing online. While thrifting can be great for neutral basics and closet staples like jeans, there is a goldmine to be found in thrift stores when it comes to mainstream trends. Make sure to check out Pinterest or other social media platforms to get an idea of which trends you want to take inspiration from when you are digging through the aisles.
Remember, while you won’t be able to dismantle the entire fast-fashion industry on your own, you can make conscious decisions to make more ethical and sustainable choices when it comes to shopping for clothing. Also, when you do go through a clothing item and decide you want to part with it, put it aside in a bag for Goodwill or your local donation site so that way you can give the item another life.