REI sent a card with my points that equaled $60. My reaction was, yea! Then nay. I’m spending too much money on clothes with little consideration of the larger picture. In the last 15 years, clothing production has doubled. At the same time, how long we wear our clothes has declined by 40 percent. On average, we wear a piece of clothing seven times. Our clothing habits are adding tremendous strain on our environment. How we are living is not sustainable. Just as we need a budget for everyday living, we now need a carbon budget to monitor our natural resource spending.
At today’s rate, before too long, the fashion industry will use 35 percent of the world’s global carbon budget. The United States ships used clothes, often stained and unusable, to third-world countries, creating rotting textile mountains—an environmental disaster for these poor people. Giving our old clothes to the Salvation Army is no longer a gesture of generosity but selfishness. Making space in our closet to buy more is not a sign of charity.
We need to stop destroying our planet and resources to meet short-term wants. News anchors, influencers, and celebrities can set an example by wearing the same clothes repeatedly. A small wardrobe is a sign of self-control and resolve that future generations have birdsongs to enjoy and forests to hike.
Our behavior with clothing is like that of a young child who hasn’t learned the concept of reciprocity. Gaia provides us with food and shelter, but she needs us to take care of her, or she will perish.
A recent report proposes a “Wellbeing Wardrobe” for the fashion industry that favors human and environmental well-being over throwaway fast fashion (cheap and low-quality clothing). Embracing this approach could cut our clothing consumption by 75 percent.
The report also tackles the consequences for low-income people who may lose their livelihood during the transition to a more sustainable industry.
Fast fashion has resulted in greater consumption. Combined, last year, H&M and Zara launched over ten thousand new styles. Shein, a Chinese clothing business marketing to generation Z, selling the clothing they see on social media, sold more than H&M and Zara combined, creating additional mountains of give-away clothing that ends in landfills.
Adopt fashion that’s gentler on the planet—and your wallet.the conversation.com
We need to reduce our consumption. Buying secondhand clothes or using rental services has a lower environmental impact. Consider repairing and caring for the clothes you have to extend their lifespan. Instead of fast fashion that pushes “cheap buys,” join the slow fashion movement that focuses on garment quality and favors classic styles over the next fleeting trends. Swap and borrow clothes with friends.
Meeting three friends for our monthly dinner date, Deborah brings clothing items, and offers them to us. It’s how I ended up with a lovely green knit top and a scarf with birds. When I participated in a 5k event that charged $20 for participating and gave us a shirt, Becky said, “They should give us a choice of donating the money instead of receiving stuff.” Intuitively, these friends are moving in the direction of sustainability.
Businesses seeking perpetual growth at the cost of depleting our resources devastate our quality of life. Sustainable businesses are the future. We can’t wait for policymakers to act. We need to do it now, with what we have. No more stuffed closets—for the sake of the planet’s longevity.