National Thrift Shop Day probably isn't the first day that comes to mind when you think of reducing your environmental footprint. More likely Earth Day or National Recycling Day conjure images of planting trees and separating your plastic bottles and aluminum cans. This back-to-school season I am encouraging you to reconsider your clothing footprint by giving a shirt about your clothing footprint.
Each year we consume more than 80 billion pieces of new clothing. As we purchase more clothing we are also creating more and more clothing waste. The average North American throws away 81 pounds of clothing each year, 95 percent of which could have been reused or recycled. Thrift stores and take-back programs can and do play a significant role in keeping these items out of the landfill. In fact, Savers helped divert more than 650 million pounds of reusable goods from entering the waste stream last year alone.
Understand your clothing footprint
The clothing industry is one of the world's biggest polluters, using massive amounts of water and chemicals in the production of clothing. The average pair of jeans contains roughly 12 ounces of chemicals - the volume of a soda can - and uses more than 1,800 gallons of water to make. One T-shirt can take 700 gallons of water and nearly nine pounds of fossil fuels to produce.
Considering the massive amount of resources needed to make these items, throwing away clothing that can be reused or recycled means throwing away the precious resources that went into making those items and has a tremendous environmental cost. In fact, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency reports that recycling clothing has an equivalent impact of removing one million cars from the nation's roads.
Reduce your impact
We have to look for ways to reduce our clothing's impact on the environment. While some may say fast fashion and mass consumption are the guilty parties, I would argue it is more about all of us looking for small, every day ways each of us can reduce our footprint on a daily basis. These don't have to be huge changes, just mindful ones.
• Another person's treasure - Create a new life for your unwanted items instead of throwing them into the trash by giving them a new home, like with your friends or favorite nonprofit organization.
• Do it yourself - DIY projects aren't limited to home improvements. Another DIY way to reduce your clothing footprint is learning how to fix damaged items, or at least learning where to find a professional that can mend your clothes.
• Shop thrift - Instead of picking up a brand-new version of the latest trend, stop by your local thrift store for a unique find.
• Buy sustainably sourced fashion that is made to last - When you do need to buy new items look for quality goods made from sustainably sources materials. Choosing materials that use a limited amount of water and chemicals can significantly reduce the environmental impact of your clothing.
There is no better time to start making these changes and join the reuse cycle.
Educate and challenge family and friends
Making responsible decisions when it comes to our clothing choices is one small way we can help protect the environment we love. This impact can be magnified exponentially but educating and challenging our friends to do the same.
In our recent State Of Reuse Report, an examination of the public's attitudes and behaviors regarding clothing and textile purchasing and disposal options, we found that most people don't understand the impact of their clothing footprint. The good news is that more than half of respondents said they were more likely to participate in reuse once they knew about the environmental impact of the clothing industry.
Educating our family and friends on the impact of our clothing footprint can help save a sh!rt ton of water. That is why this back-to-school shopping season, Savers is challenging you to come together to make an impact on your clothing footprint by choosing a thrifted tee over a new one. If 1 million people choose a thrifted T-shirt in place of a new one, we can offset 700 million gallons of water. Everyday decisions about what to wear may seem trivial, but can make a huge impact on the environment. Imagine saving over 1,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools full of water before the first school bell rings.
Simply put it is time to give a sh!rt about the environment by rethinking reuse.