I love clothing. In that way, I am more of a girly girl than anyone I have ever known. I relish in the six hours (or more) I spend thumbing through the overly-perfumed, glossy pages of my favorite fashion magazines the first day they appear on the racks each month. Yet as much fun as I have looking at the latest trends from Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors, I have more fun going to my local Goodwill and other second-hand stores and searching through the racks until I find something that looks even cuter than this season's version did on the starved scarecrow walking down the runway. Amid my recent thrift store plunder (a whopping $13 in exchange for a pile of clothing) it dawned on me: not only is thrift shopping good for your wallet, but it's good for the environment, too.
Over the past few years, I've heard way too many tips on how to make my lifestyle (a.k.a. my closet) greener. I've tried line drying (too long!), searching for clothing made from organic cotton (too expensive!), and even going days without washing my favorite pair of jeans (too gross!).
Enter the second-hand retailer.
While some may object vehemently to buying anything that doesn't still have a price tag attached, you can find a lot of raw potential in Aunt Cindy's Nirvana-inspired flannel. With just a few alterations, and maybe even none at all, you can make out-of-date clothing fit your personal style and your body. If you're not so skilled with a needle and thread, you could ask your mom, your friends, or even learn how to do it yourself. (It's not that hard. I promise!)
The average American throws out 68 pounds of clothing a year. If even a quarter of that makes it to the donation pile, that's still 17 pounds of possibility! For those of you who are still skeptical about wearing "used" clothing, think about what simply growing cotton does to our bodies and the land. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 47 percent of chemicals used to grow cotton are considered "possible," "likely," "probable" or "known" human carcinogens. That means that even if you don't live anywhere near cotton production, those who do are forced to deal with the carcinogenic effects of growing your clothes. Not only that, but it takes one third of a pound (a pound!) of chemicals to grow enough cotton to just make one t-shirt. If you're any better at math than I am, it's easy to see that those numbers don't add up to anything good.
It's a common misconception that anyone who appreciates fashion as much as I do cannot possibly care about the environment. Although the fashion industry does not always reflect the greenest of mindsets (sweatshops, fur and dyes, to name a few) those who enjoy fashion do have options. Secondhand stores can use some love, and what better way to reduce your impact on the environment than by exploring their untapped potential and altering it to fit your needs? We all have those guilty pleasures in life (as you can probably tell by now, one of mine is clothing) but using a few simple tricks to green up your wardrobe saves more room for chocolate.
Photo: joey h/Flickr