Eco Tip: Thrifting Makes Your Closet Greener

Marsha Low, Weavers Way Environment Committee

Now that spring is here, we’re happily putting away our bulky winter clothing and bringing out our summer clothes. Hopefully, the change of seasons doesn’t inspire you to buy a whole new wardrobe, because the textile industry has a major negative impact on the environment. 

Clothing is the second-largest pollution source in the world and pollutes throughout the entire production process. Conventional farming for fibers such as cotton relies on heavy pesticide use, and manufacturing synthetic fabric relies on the use of petroleum. At the end of its life cycle, when clothing is worn out or unwanted, the majority of it heads to landfills, where it releases greenhouse gases and leaches toxins and dyes into the surrounding soil and water.

It’s estimated that clothing and textiles account for approximately one ton of emissions produced by each person yearly in the U.S. In addition, the industry is the third largest consumer of water globally, behind the paper and oil industries. It’s also responsible for water pollution due to the use of toxic dyes and the washing of synthetic clothing, which causes tiny, non-biodegradable fibers to be introduced into the water supply.

When you need another T-shirt or pair of jeans, consider buying secondhand clothing. There are good deals to be had at consignment and thrift stores. If you must buy new, consider purchasing clothing made with organically grown cotton. It costs more but tends to last longer and is more often ethically produced, another important consideration. The feeling you get from purchasing something healthier for you and the planet is priceless.