The F Word: Fast Fashion and the Impact it Has on the Environment

When you hear the term “environmental waste” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Did you think of the fashion industry? If so, you’re on the right track.

Much of what we purchase will eventually end up in the donation stream and on average, Goodwills and other charity shops only sell about a third of what is donated. This is still a lot of stuff out of landfills. Places like Goodwill play a major role in reducing textile waste, in addition to providing programs for local communities.

However, before you drop off that bag of stuff to your local thrift store, it’s important to remember to practice “conscious decluttering.” Being mindful of what and how you donate stuff helps reduce textile waste and increases the chances of a second life for your secondhand stuff.

Five ways you can practice conscious decluttering:

Check to see what your local donation center accepts

Thrift stores receive a lot of stuff that they can’t accept, including hazardous materials and other items that thrift stores have to dispose of, which can be very costly. Take a minute to check with your local donation center to see what they accept before making a donation. And be sure to wash and clean items before dropping them off at a donation center or bin.

Donate items you’re no longer wearing or using, especially those higher quality items.

Remember: The better quality the donation to a local charity, the more likely it will be purchased or used quickly and locally – in turn extending its life cycle. Holding on to a sweater from two years ago that still has the tags still attached? Have a bridesmaid’s dress you wore once tucked away in a closet? Or maybe you have a bin of “just in case _____” clothes (insert your excuse here: lose weight, my daughter might want this). Releasing our emotional attachment to valuable and quality things we no longer have use for can be a remarkable thing.

Be more selective about what you buy in the first place.

Cheaply made items are not made to last, therefore having a greater chance of ending up in a landfill. Higher quality items have a greater chance of having a new life after they are donated.

This is the problem with fast fashion and the decline in quality clothing. After these items are worn 1-10 times and end up in a donation bin at a local thrift store, some either might not sell or in some cases aren’t even put on the sales floor because the quality is so bad. So they get sold to textile recycling buyers who can’t recycle them into rags and might have difficulty reselling them to markets in other countries.

This responsibility also lies greatly on the companies manufacturing new clothing.

Donate your stuff to a cause you believe in.

It can be very difficult to let go of our stuff, especially when it’s expensive, or has a strong sentimental value. Finding a resale charity or organization with a mission that you believe in makes that process a little easier. It helps to know that my donation is going to a good home through an organization making a positive impact on my local community. There are dozens upon dozens of charities that accept secondhand clothing to support their mission. Look into one that speaks to you on a personal level.

Experience the thrift store as a shopper, not just a donor

If you frequently donate to a thrift store but never pulled around the front to shop, consider giving it a chance! Experiencing a resale store as shopper in addition to a donor is a great way to become more mindful of you what and how you donate while understanding how thrift stores operate on the “other” side!

Links from this episode

The True Cost film
Sustainable Apparel Coalition
Free Capsule / Essentials Thrift Guide (with e-mail sign up)
Updated list of Dina’s favorite thrift stores (with e-mail sign up)
Akron clothing swap
ThredUp Resale Report (2019)

Allow us to Rethriftrodeuce Ourselves is a podcast about secondhand shopping hosted by two treasure-hunting friends, Dina & Shannon. Subscribe today.

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