Waste Not, Want Not.

Img src:  Simple Recycling

Spring cleaning, purging, closet cleanse, minimizing… whatever you may call it, getting rid of clothes is something we all do. Clothes start to fit differently, they fall apart, certain styles aren’t “in” anymore, or maybe you never liked them to begin with, are all reasons we decide to toss.

"Toss" makes that job sound easy, but it's not. Letting go is hard because clothes are often attached to memories. Clothes you haven't worn in years will fight to stay because “Maybe I will wear it again." 

But what you may not realize is that the hard part hasn’t even begun. The difficulty doesn’t start until after you say goodbye. Whether you trash your clothes, give them away, or you recylce, discarding clothes has become a dilemma. 

Think about this, the average person gets rid of approximately 82lbs of clothing each year. Now multiply that by how many average people exist in the world. The US alone accumulates 11 million tons of textile waste each year that goes directly to landfills only to sit and emit toxic greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere. Not only that but materials can take hundreds of years to biodegrade.

So, what about donating and recylcing? Obviously a much better option than dooming your clothes to rot in a landfill, but we still have a problem.

There are 4 potential paths clothes take after they are donated. Approximately 20% end up being resold, 45% are recycled, and the rest either gets shipped to developing countries, or sent to a landfill. Those numbers don’t sound too bad until you zoom in a little. In 2014, Goodwill transported 22 million pounds of clothing to landfills — that small shipment of clothes was 11% of the donations that were deemed unsellable. In other words, the problem isn't exactly about how much we donate, it's that we accumulate and give a lot of really bad clothes.

Now what?

Buy less and buy better. 

Investing in well made clothes means that they will last longer. Not only will you enjoy them more, but when you are ready to move on, they will be sellable. They will be wanted and worn again by someone else. 

Well made clothes have the opprotunity of becoming vintage. Vintage clothes exist because they are made differently. Not just the styles, but the quality. Those clothes have passed hands and continue to be worn because they were made to last.

Buying less enables you to afford well made clothes and makes you happier. Apparently, less clothes increases your level of peace because you literally have more space in your life. You will also have less laundry, less cleaning, and less stress when getting ready in the morning. Most importantly, less clothes means less purging and less waste.

This is not a “get your sh*t together” talk, because I currently have a pile of really terrible cheap clothes that I will never wear again sitting in the corner of my closet. I am in the trenches with you, drowning in too many bad clothes and desperate for a solution. For now, all we can be is conscious.

 

PS. Sources include really great articles by News Week, The Atlantic, and by Fashionista.