The act of buying a used piece of clothing, normally from a shop, in order to reuse it was given the label we know as ‘thrifting’. Imagine in some lecture you are asked to find one act which reduces your carbon and water footprint, saves landfill space and also supports local businesses. At first, it seems impossible for one task to be able to satisfy such a list of qualities, however, thrifting does all this and more!
Recently, there has been an increase of interest in thrifting, particularly to make an effort in curbing detrimental damage to our environment. But how can buying someone else’s unused items benefit the world? Unfortunately, the resources put into the production of garments make a significant and direct impact on our environment in ways which have been completely disregarded. Currently, more than 400 gallons of water are used to produce the cotton of just one t-shirt. On top of that, it can take 200 years or more for a piece of clothing to fully disintegrate in a landfill. In the process, greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals are released into the air and ground, further diminishing the quality of our air and soil.
Down the rabbit hole of fast fashion
After discovering the awful impacts fashion can have on the earth, it is natural to ask yourselves
why does this keep happening?
Fast fashion describes the mass-production of clothing items where most commonly, these are replicas of high in demand pieces which are set to become the trend for the coming season. This way, customers can have the pleasure of wearing in-vogue garments, but at what price? As attractive the low prices and trendy designs may be, there are several consequences for succumbing to fast fashion. Here is a brief overview:
- Supporting inhumane working conditions: workers have little to no rights, are not
paid a living wage (that is the bare minimum to sustain a family) whilst they suffer
through 16 hours of labour with no proper ventilation and unstable buildings. In addition,
child labour is also common with around 160 million children coming from poor families
are forced to work.
- Allowing the usage of toxic substances: about 11 chemicals used to make clothes
can be harmful to our body and about 63% of items tested from fashion brands
contained hazardous chemicals. Some studies have also shown that chemicals found in
a child’s pyjamas can be traced in their urine for up to 5 days after wearing the pyjamas
for one night.
- Detrimental environmental impact: 20% of industrial water pollution comes from textile treatment and dyes, 1.5 trillion litres of water are used by the fashion industry every year, 190,000 tons of textile microplastic fibres are released into the ocean each year making their way into our food chain. Clothing is not made to last which leads to about 1 garbage truck of textiles being wasted per second. As mentioned previously, synthetic fibres can take up to 200 years to decompose. Furthermore, fossil fuels are used to produce synthetic fibres which are now used in the majority of our clothes. Overall, this industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions.
There are further consequences that are harming our environment and ourselves in the process. The above is simply a taste of what fast fashion is capable of and will surely encourage you to dig deeper into this topic.
How you can help
Now that you are aware of the problem, it is time to be introduced to one of the solutions: thrifting! As explained briefly above, thrifting has numerous benefits which not only benefit the environment, but it goes against the concepts fast fashion stands for. By choosing to buy more clothes from thrift stores, you are choosing to:
- Give garments a second chance: one of the downsides of fast fashion is that as soon as certain pieces are out of style, they are discarded and never worn again. Instead, if they are donated to a thrift shop, someone else might come along and decide to style it in their own way. It can also give rise to custom pieces of clothing as alterations are made to items bought according to an individual’s liking.
- Avoid buying mass-produced items: by doing so, you are actively encouraging fast fashion giants to move away from their unsustainable practices and start applying changes to their business in such a way which safeguards their workers’ wellbeing and the environment.
- Reduce pollution altogether: as mentioned previously, donating unwanted clothes to thrift shops will spare the sea and air from further pollution since a piece of clothing will be reused for generations. Also, even if a piece of clothing seems to be ‘out of style’ or might be deteriorating, it can be repurposed using basic sewing skills! Help out local businesses and charities: during the pandemic, our local businesses and charities have seen a decline in donations. One way in which this financial burden can be relieved is to frequently visit thrift shops around Malta that also support your favourite charities. In addition, buying handmade items from local tailors is another great initiative one can take towards a greener way of living.
Finally, items on display at thrift shops are in magnificent condition and sometimes, you may even find popular branded items. They usually come at much cheaper prices compared to their original value and unlike fast fashion, you will not harm the environment. Not to mention, donating your clothes to thrift shops also helps the environment and is completely free!
If you would like to start thrifting but have no clue where to start from, may I invite you to a Thrift Shop at KSU Salott organised by SCubed! It is going to be held on the 8th of April from 11am to 5pm. Come and have a look to take your first steps in aid of the environment!
Written by: S-Cubed – Science Students’ Society
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are not reflective of ‘A Bird’s Eye View’ as a whole.
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