Zero Waste of Time: The impact of fast fashion

How to reduce and recycle your clothing

Buy second-hand clothes and save the natural resources that it takes to make new clothes. Shoppers during the 40th annual Fall Winter sale by UPCCC. Juliette Fradin Photography.

By JULIETTE FRADIN — “I have nothing to wear”; “I need an outfit for that next event”; “I don’t fit in half of my clothes.” If the feeling is familiar, you are not alone; The world consumes about 80 billion of new clothing each year

This is what we call fast fashion: companies making fashion trends available at high speed and low cost for consumers. The fashion industry used to run on two seasons: spring/summer and fall/winter. Nowadays, fast fashion brands like H&M, Forever 21 and Zara produce 52 micro-seasons per year, and their products are cheaper than ever. They want you to feel like you are off-trend after one week. We buy garments that we wear only a few times before throwing them away, despite the fact they have traveled across the world to get to us. Now with the click of a button, we shop anything, anywhere at anytime. No need to wait at checkout lines anymore. 

There are consequences to our over consumption, however. The clothing industry is now one of the biggest polluters on the planet. It contributes to about 5% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions and uses lots of water and fossil fuels. This industry also has a direct impact on our health, as many of our clothes are made out of plastic, lead and hazardous chemicals

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average American throws away around 80 pounds of clothing per year (5 times more than in 1980). Of that 80 pounds, 85% goes to our landfills, and this amount is growing. But the good news is that 100% of textiles can be recycled. 

To minimize your consumption of clothes, first, purchase less. Invest in basic pieces like standard T-shirts (organic if you can), jeans and sweaters that will last you for a long time. Buy from sustainable and environmentally conscious brands like Everlane, Reformation, Balzac Paris and Amour Vert. These clothes will last longer. But be aware of greenwashing or when brands want to make more profits by claiming they are “green” but operate in a way that is damaging to the environment. If you are in need of an outfit for a special occasion, rent it (www.renttherunway.com). 

If you want a more mindful wardrobe, or even a capsule wardrobe (a minimalist collection of useful clothing that you love), clean out your closet. But where to get rid of your surplus? Sell the most worthy pieces to consignment stores or on fashion apps like Poshmark or thredUP. Donate the rest to organizations (like the Family Health and Birth Center in D.C.), local charities, or thrift stores like Value Village or Goodwill. Recycling is better than dumping your clothes. 

You can also keep your old clothing in the community by passing them on to your friends and family.  You can donate and shop at the HY-Swap for everything kid-related on Oct. 19 at the Hyattsville Municipal Building, 4310 Gallatin Street. It opens at 11 a.m. for local residents. You can also buy quality used clothes for tots to teens from local families at the upcoming University Park Children Clothing Co-op on Oct. 12, from 9 a.m. to noon at the First Baptist Church of Hyattsville, 5701 42nd Avenue. Numi Yoga Studio (4513 College Avenue, College Park) will collect your athletic clothes until Oct. 17 during studio hours. You can also take your donations and help a good cause in College Park through Green Drop (8900 Baltimore Avenue). Wonder what to do with all the empty shipping boxes you get from Amazon? You can fill them up with unwanted items, print a Give Back Box label online and send them for free using UPS or USPS and benefit a charity of your choice at the same time.

Some retailers, like H&M, The North Face, Patagonia, Levi Strauss & Co, and Madewell, have in-store recycling bins (and also make it easy to return items). My Organic Market has a spring Denim Drive. Schedule a donation to the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), and they will pick up boxes directly from your curb. VVA especially needs clothing of all types and sizes for the whole family. Their nearest drop-off site is 8719 Colesville Road, Silver Spring.

If you would like to raise money for your school or organization, consider organizing a FUNDrive with Value Village. Set up the event, collect clothing, then drop it off and receive a payment.

If you want to dig further on the subject, Three Little Birds Sewing Co. (5132 Baltimore Avenue) just launched a book club, and their first book will be Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes on Oct. 28 from 7 to 10 p.m. See you there? 

Send questions and comments to bonjour@juliettefradin.com

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