When I was in middle school, my parents basically forced me to ride my bike to school. Part of me liked the independence this afforded me, but another part of me really liked impractical clothes and was tormented by the results. It was 2002, so between my peasant tops sleeves flailing in the wind like a tube dancer at a used car lot and my bell bottoms snagging in my chain, my commute wasn’t the most graceful thing you’ve ever seen.
All that shopping at the Limited Too and Delia*s wasn’t great for my yearbook photos, but it was also not great for the planet. In recent years as I’ve learned more about the impact of the apparel industry, I’ve experimented with brands and practices that can lower my footprint, while also opting for more styles that lean more towards ‘classic’ than cringe-worthy.
Being car free keeps me away from big box stores, but it does make online shopping more tempting, and I’m definitely guilty of buying and owning far more clothing than is necessary or practical. Some compelling statistics on the impact of our clothing choices has helped start to steer me away from my fast fashion habits:
- After oil, the clothing and textile industry is the largest source of industrial pollution.
- Producing one ton of the fabric for our jeans and t-shirts requires 200 tons of water.
- The average consumer throws away 70 lbs of clothing per year.
- 90% of garments are transported by container ships each year; a single ship can produce as much cancer and asthma-causing pollutants as 50 million cars in just one year.
- Approximately 60% of our clothing is made up of what are essentially plastic fibers, which shed during wearing and washing and end up in our oceans, rivers and other bodies of water.
That’s just the tip of the information iceberg on the mess we’re making in the name of clothing ourselves. So the real question is, what are we going to do about it?
Here are a few of my own suggestions:
- Buy less stuff. Earlier this year, I wore the same dress for a week straight to see if anyone would notice. Guess what? No one cares but you. Project 33 and ‘capsule wardrobes’ are great places to start on Pinterest if you want to see how some people structure a streamlined, simplified and smaller wardrobe.
- Swap! I’ve hosted two clothing swaps this year at my house, and it was not only a great way to try out new and different pieces for free, but also a fun time to hangout and catch up with friends. Here’s one of many how-to resources to get started on having your own.
- Learn how to fix things. Sewing a button, repairing a seam, or even some minor alterations are easy given a little practice.
- Thrift! Secondhand shops are overwhelmed with donations and full of treasures. Shopping secondhand saves perfectly good clothing from ending up in our landfills.
- When you do have to buy new, shop smart and support businesses with responsible, sustainable resourcing and production practices. Toad & Co Clothing is one such company, and they even sent me an outfit recently to try out for commuting and celebrating National Car Free Day. I was super impressed with their commitment to using recycled materials in their fabrics, reducing and carefully selecting packaging materials, and educating consumers about the importance of sustainable fashion. Their clothes fit and feel great, are built for an active lifestyle, and have a classic feel that defies fleeting trends that tend to drive up our clothing consumption.
In short, I’m a big believer in making choices you can feel
morally smug and superior good about. We can save the planet, save money, and enjoy more of the good life when we slow our roll and save our resources.
Disclaimer: outfit provided free from Toad & Co Clothing; opinions and reviews expressed are my own.