THE COLD HARD FACTS
There are many reasons why thrift stores are great: low prices, unique items, charity donations. However, thrift stores also allow us to indulge in our regular quests for the latest fashion trends while reducing our footprint on the environment and removing us from the social injustices involved in fast fashion clothing production.
WHAT IS FAST FASHION?
Fast fashion is what you find at Forever XXI, H&M, Zara, Topshop, Gap, and more. These fashion retailers sell items that lose their value very quickly: either they lose quality or become unfashionable soon after you buy them. In addition to this, these stores frequently releas new items and advertise using many items to build a single outfit, so that regular purchases are necessary for staying up-to-date with the latest fashion trends. Unfortunately, this high turnover rate is responsible for a variety of environmental issues. There are quite a few things fashion consumers can do to decrease their environmental footprint and it begins with educating yourself about fast fashion consumerism.
Here is a list of some fast fashion studies and their findings:
• Joung, H. M., & Park‐Poaps, H. (2013). Factors motivating and influencing clothing disposal behaviours. International Journal of consumer studies, 37(1), 105-111.
◦“On average, individual Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing each year” (105).
◦“In 2009, textiles accounted for about 13 million tons of the solid waste but only 15% are recovered” (105).
◦“Recycling textiles reduces not only the volume in landfills but also the use of material resources such as fibres, water and chemical dyestuffs” (105).
◦“Low-priced low-quality garments do not provide adequate justifi- cation for recycling and are difficult to recycle” (107).
• Joy, A., Sherry Jr, J. F., Venkatesh, A., Wang, J., & Chan, R. (2012). Fast fashion, sustainability, and the ethical appeal of luxury brands. Fashion Theory, 16(3), 273-295.
◦Fast fashion items are expected to keep their quality for ten washes, after which “an item will no longer be able to retain its original value, due to poor-quality materials and manufacturing” (283).
◦The participants in this study “cared greatly about sustainability, but only as it related to food, recycling, and, in some cases, cosmetics…If consumers recognize the demands that fast fashion makes on the environment, they seem to block it from their consciousness” (286).
• McAfee, A., Dessain, V., & Sjöman, A. (2007). Zara: IT for fast fashion. Harvard Business School.
◦“Zara garments were not designed and manufactured to be highly durable; they were described as ‘clothes to be worn 10 times’” (4).
• Mcneill, L., & Moore, R. (2015). Sustainable fashion consumption and the fast fashion conundrum: fashionable consumers and attitudes to sustainability in clothing choice. International Journal of Consumer Studies,39(3), 212-222. doi:10.1111/ijcs.12169
◦“Even when consumers seek out products made under ethical conditions or from sustainable fabric sources, the desire for updated fashion increases waste and disposal of goods deemed ‘unfashionable’ after only limited use” (213).
• Morgan, L. R., & Birtwistle, G. (2009). An investigation of young fashion consumers’ disposal habits. International Journal of Consumer Studies,33(2), 190-198. doi:10.1111/j.1470-6431.2009.00756.x
◦“Because of the synthetic nature of the materials used in the cheap clothing, they are not easily recyclable” (191).
◦“While consumers are now questioning the link between low fashion prices and unethical working conditions in factories overseas, there still appears to be little awareness of the impact of the disposition of high volumes of textile waste” (192).
THE LIFE OF A T-SHIRT
Have you ever considered how much water was used to make the T-shirt you’re wearing? How much energy was required to transform a cotton plant into that shirt? What about the amount of energy used to distribute the shirt to the store where you bought it? The answers to these questions are pretty surprising. If you don’t have time to read the infographic, the answer to these questions is “a lot.” What happens to the shirt when it no longer holds any value to you? Well, that’s for you to decide, though I encourage you to check out the various donating options on my pro-tips page.