Fast fashion is one of the most environmental polluting industries. The dyeing of textiles involve the use of toxic chemicals that contaminate our water supplies, and a cotton-based T-shirt and a pair of jeans can cost more than 5000 gallons of water to manufacture. When production is outsourced to another country to take advantage of cheap labor costs, the back-and-forth transnational transportation of raw materials and finished products means that an immeasurable quantity of fuel is burned and released into the atmosphere in the process. All this to create a garment that is meant to eventually be quickly disposed of in order to facilitate future purchases.
The environmental ramifications of indulging in fashion, fast fashion or otherwise, is why a reasonable price point is not the only factor I look at when searching for new additions to my wardrobe. A piece of clothing has to be well-made enough to sustain more than just a handful of washes without losing its structural integrity, and its design has to have a timeless quality that would enable me to wear it years down the road. Yet, despite subjecting each potential purchase to careful consideration, I have found upon a recent closet spring cleaning session that there are a few clothing items I’d not worn for ages and don’t see myself wearing them again. There was no point in keeping those clothes, but where could I bring them to if I couldn’t bear to simply throw them out?
I did a bit of research and first found that H&M has an ongoing initiative where you bring your unwanted clothes – no brand is off limits – to the store and not only will they help you re-purpose your clothes, they reward you with a 500 yen coupon for every bag of clothing you bring to be used on your next purchase that hits a 3000 yen minimum. However, take note that H&M will only issue a maximum of two coupons per day. Your clothes will be sorted for re-wearing, reusing, or recycling depending on their conditions. Personally, the knowledge that I’m extending the lifespan of my clothes makes me way happier than the discount I’ll get on my next shopping trip to H&M, which is hypothetical of course because I wouldn’t want to accumulate more clothes I’d only discard in the near future.
After more digging, I also found that UNIQLO has a similar sustainability project, which they call the All-Product Recycling Initiative that began in 2007. Only used UNIQLO clothing in good condition is accepted, and the clothes will be delivered to refugees, evacuees, victims of disaster, expectant and nursing mothers, and others in need around the world in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR).
As of August 2017, UNIQLO has collected 65.94 million items across 16 countries and regions, and donated 25.58 million items in 65 countries and regions, which are both staggering numbers. However, as stated on UNIQLO’s website, “there are still many, many people around the world who are in need of clothing. Having as many customers as possible bring in items for recycling helps steadily widen the circle of support we have created for people living in difficult environments. We very much appreciate your support.”
So if you’re trimming down your wardrobe and have excess clothes to give away or if you’re moving houses and need to get rid of unnecessary clothing, I hope that you have found the information above helpful. I think it would also be a good idea to think twice before purchasing new clothes, because although you could donate them for recycling afterwards, a reduced demand would (theoretically) mean lowered production and less environmental damage.