Do you know the environmental impacts of your favorite brands? I know I didn’t. I spent years happily wearing the seemingly innocent and cheap Forever 21 or H&M clothing. But the grim truth is that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. The average lifecycle of the clothing we buy is a meager three years, which is absurdly short for the environmental impact each item has. For example, making a single tee shirt takes 700 gallons of water, .10 pounds of fertilizer, .01 pounds of pesticides, and 1.23 pounds of fossil fuel. On a broader scale, 70 million trees are cut down each year to make clothing, with the apparel industry accounting for an astounding 10% of global carbon emissions; of this, only 15% of clothing is recycled. The reoccurring issue here is that fashion is a huge contributor to the overuse of finite resources on earth and greenhouse gas emissions.
Luckily, this is preventable. I promise that there are cuter and more sustainable clothes elsewhere. A great place to go is a thrift shop. Once you learn the ropes of digging through racks, it is the best place to find pieces that you can’t find anywhere else for a fraction of the price they would usually be. You can walk out of the store knowing both the Earth and your wallet are happy.
If you aren’t interested in a thrift shop, fear not—there are more options. For example, Depop. Depop is an app where people can sell clothes they made, thrift-flipped, or just don’t want anymore. You can find basically all price points, from a $5 tank top to a $200 vintage pair of vintage Levis. You can scroll for hours with a feed tailored specifically to your style knowing all the clothing is being reused through being bought.
If neither of those appeal to you, you can always buy clothes from a sustainable fashion company. Alternative Apparel is a great option with comfortable basics and prices ranging from $10-$100. Girlfriend Collective has eco-friendly activewear, and prices range around $25-$70. I also recommend Warp + Weft as one of the best places to get unique, sustainable jeans; prices there run from $50-$100. These are only three of countless environmentally friendly shops, and so many boast similar price ranges to those you would find at Forever 21. You can find a few more of these here.
There is no reason for fashion to be causing so much environmental degradation. There are so many better options than throwing out a piece of clothing once you are done with it that help end the cycle of buying and throwing out. One person’s trash truly is another’s treasure, and there is no better place to see that than in fashion! So next time you need new clothes, maybe consider one of these options to find unique pieces that don’t contribute to environmental destruction.