Reducing Clothing Waste

Every year, people in the US discard more than 34 billion pounds of used textiles, averaging to over 100 pounds of textile waste per person each year, most of which ends up in landfills. Our May EcoHOMES action is to commit to reducing clothing waste by implementing changes to our purchasing and disposal habits. 

Resist the Fast Fashion Temptation

In the age of instant gratification, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “fast fashion” – trendy, inexpensive garments designed for quick turnover. Heidi Roop tells us in The Climate Action Handbook that “the average number of times a garment is worn has decreased by 36% over the last 15 years while global clothing production has nearly doubled.” Much of this clothing is made from polyester – plastic derived from fossil fuels – which takes hundreds of years to decompose while polluting our waterways and oceans with microplastics. Let’s resist the allure of fast fashion by consciously limiting impulse shopping for items we may not truly need, instead prioritizing quality over quantity when adding new pieces to our wardrobes. Choosing fewer pieces of well-made clothing that can last longer, and using accessories to add a trendy touch rather than purchasing full new outfits every year, reduces the environmental impact that comes from both textile manufacturing emissions and adding to landfill volume. 

Embrace Sustainable Practices

Mindfully taking care of our clothing is another powerful way to reduce waste and extend the lifespan of our garments. Proper storage and simple repairs can significantly prolong the life of our favorite pieces. Laundering clothing inside-out in cold water, and air drying as much as possible subjects clothing to less wear and tear (and conserves energy as well). When shopping for new items, consider the sustainability of the fabrics. Although natural fibers such as wool and cotton biodegrade much more rapidly than synthetic counterparts, there is still a lot of energy and natural resources used to produce clothes made from these natural fibers, so the focus should still be on acquiring fewer garments in the first place. You can read more about the best lower-impact fabrics on the market here. Another way of reducing environmental impact is to shop brands that use sustainable methods to produce clothing such as Eileen Fisher, Harvest and Mill, Pact and Patagonia. 

Engage in Community Solutions

As members of a vibrant community like York EcoHOMES, we have the opportunity to collaborate and support each other in our journey towards sustainability. Organizing clothing swaps with friends, especially for children’s clothes, fosters a sense of camaraderie while also saving money. Explore resources such as second-hand shops, consignment stores, and online marketplaces to find and donate clothing (and other goods) and even make some money, while reducing waste. According to Donald Martin, the manager of our YCSA Thrift Shop, “YCSA cares about the health of our environment by reducing landfill waste in our community. When you donate gently used clothing to YCSA, you are not only helping our environment, you’re helping us to raise funds through the sale of these items for our family service, food pantry, and housing programs. And, anything we don’t sell we share with area shelters and Planet Aid.” Discover more ideas about recycling textiles here. Together, we can reduce the clothing waste of our community, and share in the satisfaction that we are helping the environment and the health of our planet for future generations. 

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