Have you ever wondered what happens to your clothing after it is donated? Have you wondered where they go after they have been cycled through your local thrift store? What happens if they weren’t repurchased- Is there a purgatory for used apparel after it is given away? (Um, no)…Unfortunately, the reality is that your clothing sits and clogs landfills. And while most of us are already donating to secondhand locations, a good portion of clothing is still ending up in landfills around the world leaving a toxic footprint in our environment and contributing to sources of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In addition, while textiles are a smaller portion of our landfill waste at 5.2 percent or 13.1 million tons, most of this waste is not recovered for recycling like other Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). It’s among the lowest on the recycling rung, right near food waste and wood.
So how can you (we) assist in eliminating textile waste that doesn’t break the bank? The easiest way can be as simply beginning to shop smarter by choosing sustainable fabrics that reduce the environmental impact. Again, many of us are doing our fair share of recycling our textiles to charity donations. Other ways include shopping secondhand and reselling items online from your wardrobe. But what else can we do? The best way to eliminate your footprint is to first choose fabrics that are sustainable, or organic fabrics that will naturally decompose in a bio-friendly way! This is the easiest leap you can make RIGHT NOW in committing to a sustainable lifestyle and eliminate fast fashion waste.
Just think about it- comparing the amount of materials recycled to the overall impact on the environment, it becomes clear that clothing and textiles are not a priority as other recyclable goods like aluminum, plastic, glass, and paper. When you think of recycling clothing, we tend to think of donating or reusing them. Understanding the textile life-cycle is something we all should be conscious of in order to help us make better future purchases.
Take a look at a list of fabrics recommended by The Commissioner for Sustainability and Environment that will help you identify what fabrics to pick up the next time you are shopping.
- Organic Cotton: Cotton is proabably the most reconizable fabric on the planet and many of us probably already own many pieces that contain it. Unfortunately, cotton has a high environmental impact. Choose clothing made from organic cotton or fair-trade cotton. You should always check the percentage of cotton in your fabrics (many times they are blended with other fabrics) by checking the care tag. These tags can be found in the inside lining of your clothing that break down exactly what your textiles are made of.
- Linen: Linen tends to be an exclusive fabric and can be found in clothing or bedding. It is known most commonly by providing converage to the skin while keeping you cool in the heat. All the more reason to choose this fabric during the warmer seasons. Linen is made from flaxseeds grown in Europe & China and may be bleached to add color (depending on the garment) but is traditionally white in color.
- Silk: This option is not best for vegans since it is the product of the casing from the silk worm. The process has a very low enviromental impact when extracted traditionally through Chinnese methods. While silk is also an exclusive fabric, it can be found at many retailers you may already shop with.
- Hemp: Hemp fabric is extracted from the cannabis sativa plant and is as a fabric that can provide all the warmth and softness of a natural textile with a superior durability seldom found in other materials. It’s versitilitly allows for it to be spun into clothing, shoes, and be used in creating furniture!
From this list what are you most excited to add to your wardrobe? Are there other fabrics that you would reccomend to assist in leading a sustainable lifestyle?
Need help on where to start shopping first? Check out my Poshmark Closet!
Picture: Sarah Dorweiler, Unsplash