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Thrifting, a solution to fast fashion pollution

December 17, 2021

As climate change worsens, awareness about ethical consumption has increased. Consumers are now becoming more conscious of how their purchases impact the environment. However, most people have no idea that the clothing they purchase causes a great deal of pollution. Yes, there are more severe factors that attribute to climate change like burning coal or fossil fuels. Following the oil industry, the fashion industry is the second largest contributor to pollution in the world.

The greatest cause of climate change is the increasing amount of greenhouse gas emissions inside the atmosphere. These gases blanket the Earth and trap the sun’s heat inside, making the global temperature rise. CO2 is the primary greenhouse gas emitted into the environment. According to the United States Environmental Protection agency, in 2019, CO2 made up 80 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. The fast fashion industry is one of these human activities and accounts for 10 percent of the global gas emissions contributing to climate change. When clothing from fast fashion companies is made, huge amounts of CO2 are emitted, negatively impacting the environment.

While producing clothing, fast fashion companies guzzle clean water. In one year, the fashion industry uses 1.5 trillion liters of water, according to sustainyourstyle.org. Cotton, which is commonly used in fabrics, takes a lot of water to grow, therefore increasing the water consumption of companies. Large amounts of water are also used in the dyeing and finishing processes for clothing. Considering that clean water is not accessible for over 750 million people, why is the fashion industry allowed to use and pollute so much of the world’s limited clean water supply?

Fast fashion companies use synthetic, non-biodegradable fabrics that also pollute water. When synthetic clothing is washed, microfibers and clothing dyes end up in wastewater, eventually reaching the ocean. In one year, 500,000 tons of microfibers are released into the ocean, which is equivalent to 50 billion plastic water bottles. Unfortunately, aquatic animals ingest the microfibers in the water. According to the Surfrider Foundation, many types of fish that humans consume have been found to have plastic in their systems. Therefore, humans are also ingesting the same plastics.

And, to make matters worse, fast fashion companies strongly encourage a “throw-away” mindset to gain profit. Low prices and constant new product launches make consumers believe that clothing is inherently disposable. This promoted mindset is at fault for the surplus of textile waste, and why 84 percent of clothing litters landfills and incinerators.

What can we do?

One way that we can combat the growing problem of fast fashion is by shopping ethically. This year especially, as awareness about the climate crisis increases, many are looking for more sustainable options for clothing. Thrifting has gained popularity for many reasons, one being that it is much more sustainable and environmentally conscious.

Second-hand buying recycles clothing that would have otherwise ended up in incinerators. Thrifting gives clothing another chance and decreases the consumers’ carbon footprint, making thrifting eco-friendly. Since it is hard to recycle already made clothing, thrifting or second-hand buying is the easiest way to shop sustainably.

Not only is thrifting an eco-friendly alternative to fast fashion, but it is also fashionable. The negative connotation that used to be associated with going to thrift stores is no longer. Today, thrift shopping has become a fashion trend. Clothing that was popular many years ago has resurfaced years later and is now re-worn by younger generations. For example, platform shoes worn on runways during the 2000s are now making a comeback twenty years later. 2000s shows and movies like Gilmore Girls and Twilight are regaining popularity and have influenced fashion trends immensely. The reemergence of the early 2000s fashion has made thrift stores a popular destination for clothing.

Along with thrifting being environmentally friendly, it is also cheaper than most fast fashion companies’ prices. Thrifting offers consumers a low price for a one-of-a-kind clothing piece. Now, secondhand shopping is also offered online, making sustainable shopping even more accessible. Online sites like Depop and Poshmark are becoming popular for people to sell and buy used clothing. More sustainable clothing companies are starting to emerge, and larger companies are changing their policies to do their part to aid the climate crisis.

Central’s students are already making sustainable fashion choices. Thrifting has become a fun, inexpensive activity to search for one-of-a-kind pieces that others surely won’t have. Thrifted clothing is worn every day at Central and even at Homecoming.                                                                        “I went to Thrift World hoping to find an affordable, used dress for Homecoming. I walked out with a beautiful $7 blue dress that I could wear…Especially for homecoming, where you normally only wear the dress once, a used one is perfect,” says sophomore Lucy Leighter.                                                          “I usually thrift at nearby Goodwills or local thrift stores like Tip Top Thrift Shop in Benson. Some of my favorite items I’ve found have been corduroy pants, sweaters and sweater vests,” shares sophomore Brooklynne Castello.

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