Conscious Consumerism – Clothing Challenge

Now that we’re in the last month of summer, I’ve realized how few summer clothing items one can really get away with. I’ve rotated approximately five shirts, three capris, one dress, and one skirt through the entirety of the summer work-weeks. My weekend look is generally created by a pair of shorts or comfy skirt topped with one of three tanks that also double as my yoga gear.

There’s nothing wrong with this minimalist approach to a wardrobe, but the truth is, it’s fairly accidental on my part. I simply do more purging than I do shopping, which continually leads to weekly I-have-nothing-to-wear closet breakdowns. So I’ve determined that maybe it’s time for a wardrobe update…

But there are a few problems:

A) I have a hard time justifying anything greater than a $20 price tag, unless it’s an absolute “must-have” (cute dress for friend’s June wedding) or a “worthwhile” investment (Vibrams!).

B) I want to do a better job closing the reduce-reuse-recycle circle by buying more used goods.  Although ninety-percent of the furnishings in my house are recycled, upcycled, or handed-down, I still find it so much easier to walk into the usual big-name stores to browse rack upon rack of clothing produced by the thousands than to scavenge the unique racks of a thrift store.

C) Then there are the environmental impacts. The clothing and textile industry is extremely chemical and water dependant. Cotton is one of the most pesticide intensive crops grown, not to mention the dyes, flame-retardants, sand-blasting, and other environmentally harmful practices that go into clothing manufacturing.   A 2009 EPA study showed that over 12 million tons of textile products (mostly clothing, but this also includes furniture, carpets, etc) contributed to our municipal solid waste that year, and only 14% of it was “recovered” – kept out of a landfill through recycling, composting, or combustion.  This only accounts for textiles that entered the waste stream, and doesn’t include the 2.5 billion pounds of clothes that are donated each year.  Yes that’s 2.5 billion pounds versus 12 million tons… So although Americans are donating clothes by the bag full, we still have a long way to go in decreasing our clothing waste.  The EPA’s report also reminds readers that while textiles may be recovered and recycled, they do eventually end of as part of the waste stream once again…

Organic and eco clothing is one step in the right direction.  These clothes generally use pesticide-free cotton, bamboo, hemp, or even recycled fabric.  Something that has always stuck with me from Food, Inc. was the idea of voting with your wallet.  Purchasing alternatives to the more toxic or wasteful conventionally produced goods sends a message to companies that people believe certain consumer choices can lead to a happier, healthier planet (and body!).

The other options are simple and don’t take label-reading expertise, nor do they come with a higher price-tag (as unfortunately, many alternative options still do).  Reuse, buy used, trade with friends, or sew something new out of something old!

So for the next three months, I pledge to not buy a single *new* piece of clothing.  The much-needed wardrobe update will be done solely at thrift stores, consignment shops, and maybe some friends’ closets.

When thinking about this pledge, I started making a list of all of the thrift/resale stores in Pittsburgh, and it definitely lends itself to a few months of fun exploring and scavenging:

What local shops am I missing?  And if you’re not in Pittsburgh, what are the best thrift/resale stores in your town?

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3 Comments

  1. Friday Faves – August 12 | The Back Patio
  2. Buy Used – Clothing Challenge Shopping Spree #1 | The Back Patio
  3. Conscious Consumerism – Clothing Challenge Wrap-up « The Back Patio

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