Why we must also buy new
Buying second-hand garments is an important part of sustainable fashion. In fact, some sustainability advocates will suggest that a sustainable wardrobe should only contain second-hand items. And with good reason. “According to the EPA, Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of textile waste per person per year, and clothing and other textiles represent about 4% of municipal solid waste. But the figure is rapidly growing.” By incorporating a significant proportion of second-hand garments in your wardrobe you can help to reduce the amount of usable clothing which ends up as waste.
However, this is only one side of the issue. I believe that it is also critical that sustainably-conscious shoppers buy some proportion of new garments for their wardrobe. It doesn’t need to be a large proportion of your shopping, but it is important that we all commit to supporting sustainable fashion labels that have sustainably produced new garments.
Why this is so important? The current industrial fashion system churns out countless poor quality ‘throw away’ garments, designed to be worn and discarded as fast as the trends change. More and more, the clothing that ends up in our thrift stores is not designed to last beyond a few wears. On the one hand, buying these discarded garments ensures that this resource isn’t wasted entirely. But increasingly, your second-hand purchases won’t last you very long before you are forced to retire them to cleaning rags, compost or landfill. So on the other hand, buying second hand garments will not enable create a long lasting wardrobe. Neither will it give the fashion industry an imperative to change.
There are a number of quality sustainable conscious labels who refuse to behave as wastefully as conventional fashion brands do. As environmentally and socially conscious consumers it is important that we choose to invest our consumer dollar in these sustainable alternatives. If not, then there will be no demonstration that profitable alternatives to the wasteful norm do exist. We must balance the need to minimise the damage of the old system, with the critical importance of building new alternatives.
Of course, it is critical that we learn to live with less and only buy what we need. But when you do need something, consider new garments for some of your purchases, to support the development of genuinely sustainable alternatives to the fast fashion norm.
What about you? Where do you stand on this issue? I’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments below.
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