Loved Clothes Love the Planet
by Hannah on December 6, 2017 - 11:08pm
On August 19, 2017, Sarah Maisey wrote about the impacts of fashion on the environment for the National. Notably, the industry, valued at US $2.4 trillion a year, is disastrous both environmentally and in terms of workers’ health and safety. For example, cotton, one of the foremost materials used in the creation of textiles, needs 2,700 litres of water to make one t-shirt. Additionally, cotton represents 24% of the world’s pesticide use, yet is only 2.4% of the world’s crops. Another commonly used material is leather, created by an industry valued at $40 billion every year. Not only do the metals used in the creation of leather from raw skin harm the environment, but they also harm the workers. In fact, most fast-fashion companies produce their clothes in various Asian countries, like Cambodia and Bangladesh. In the latter, approximately 3 million people work in this industry. Of these employees, 85% are women. The high demand for new, cheap clothes has resulted in workers often doing 12 to 15 hour shifts, 6 days a week, for minimal wages. For all of the waste and suffering caused by the constant demand for new clothes, an astonishing amount of it ends up in the dump: the British alone discard 350,000 tonnes of textiles per year. And while some of this waste will quickly disintegrate, such as cotton, linen and silk, polyester and rayon can take over 1,000 years to decompose because they are synthetically created and are plastics. In sum, the fashion industry is deeply impacting both our world and the people living on it.
While buying clothes is a necessity, there are sustainable alternatives to the common trend of purchasing from fast-fashion. One of the most accessible and affordable options for an eco-friendly wardrobe is second-hand shopping. By buying something that has already been through the conventional lifecycle of an article of clothing, you prevent yourself from buying something new and contributing to the problems mentioned above and you prevent used clothes from ending up in landfills. While standard second-hand shops do exist, I wanted to create an opportunity for more people to discover the benefits of environmentally-friendly shopping.
This is why, for my volunteer project, I decided to host a second-hand clothes sale at my school, Champlain College. Initially, I planned to do this project alone, but students from another class were planning a similar project, so we opted to merge our projects together. First, we hosted a clothes drive competition amongst the Champlain sports teams, with the promise that whichever team donated the most clothes, proportionally to the size of their team, would earn a pizza lunch, kindly provided by student services, which will take place next semester. The donation period lasted from November 21st to the 23rd. At the end of this period, we, the organizers, then picked up the donations and brought them home to tally them. The results were mixed: while most teams did not bring in any donations, those that did seemed to have cleared out their closets, with men’s volleyball bringing in 46 articles of clothing, badminton 67, and cross country 15. Then came the day of the sale, November 29th during freeblock. I arrived early before my first class to help set up, which mainly entailed making signs and hanging the over 100 articles of clothing that had been donated. We then returned at freeblock to host the event. Business was booming at the beginning of the sale, some people walking away with 10 pieces in their hands. However, after the initial rush, things began to calm down, a few people trickling in and out every now and again. By the end of the sale, we had sold around 70 pieces and collected over 30$ for Champlain’s Green Team. The rest of the clothes were donated to a charity drive for Rwanda hosted by other students. In the end, the greatest contribution that this project made was not the money collected or the clothes donated, but the number of clothes that were prevented from ending up in the trash and the sustition of conventional shopping for this eco-friendly alternative. In sum, second-hand clothes are a cheap, accessible, eco-friendly way to revamp your wardrobe. While I encourage readers to try and host such an event at their school or work, simply opting for second-hand clothes instead of purchasing them new is a little step that goes a long way.
Setting Up The Clothes Sale