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From shopping sprees to conscious consumerism online: my wardrobe evolution.
As a teenager in a materialistic Texas suburb, I gave no thought to the environmental consequences of my clothing purchases.
Shopping was a raison d’être. Clothes were a status symbol—the newer and more expensive, the better. My populous high school did not teach conservation or eco-friendly living. At home, we donated our used clothing to charity. For many years, I thought this was enough.
Those were the dark ages before the internet became a part of our everyday lives.
Now, a quick web search explains that less than 10 percent of donated clothing is kept by charities and sold in their thrift shops. These organizations are overrun by the sheer volume of donated textiles. To be part of the solution, we have to learn to be better consumers.
For me, clothes shopping has evolved. I buy almost exclusively online. At the beginning of the year, I create a budget and then I break it down into quarterly allowances. I started this practice a few years ago and have continued to refine it. Restricting my purchases to designated times of the year has forced me to plan toward necessity and quality, as opposed to mindlessly splurging.
Next, I chose to purchase my clothes from eco-friendly sources and buy secondhand. The experience has been a pleasant surprise.
Gone are the days of sifting through unorganized racks of mystery clothing at the thrift store in hopes of discovering something acceptable. Today’s online consignment shopping experience is every bit as convenient as shopping for new wear, but without the guilt or the price tag. Preowned goods are typically organized by size, brand, price, condition, material, and color and shipped directly to the customer. Through online ventures that cater to all budgets and styles, conscious consumerism is now more accessible than ever.
Once I began this practice, I discovered that buying consignment clothing online pairs well with several ethical lifestyles.
There is no need to build a tiny house to be a minimalist. Taking stock of the contents of our closets is a meaningful starting place.
Fashion is a multibillion-dollar industry. When clothes are cheap and plentiful, we buy things we do not need or use. Rather than appreciating the items that we already own, we give in to the temptation to buy something new. We have been programmed to believe that a new purchase is the missing puzzle piece between us and a more happy, glamorous, or worthwhile existence.
Yet, the novelty soon wears off and we lose interest in the item entirely. This is a vicious cycle of waste.
Buying consignment clothing is a rejection of fast, cheap fashion. It is a vote for quality over quantity. Reputable online consignors will vouch for an item’s authenticity. For example, ThredUP and TheRealReal are a couple of my current favorites. Plus, a handful of forward-thinking companies like REI and Patagonia have started selling used clothing and goods online directly.
It felt like a steal when I opened my first online consignment package, an authentic designer piece that would have cost hundreds more brand new. This initial taste of “kind luxury” or “ethical upscale” was wholesome, addictive, and easy.
By choosing secondhand, we can add value to our wardrobes, rather than bulk.
The 2018 word of the year was “single use.”
Hopefully, this signals an increase in the number of people who are talking about the devastating effects of plastic waste on our planet and who want to do something about it.
Carrying reusable bags to the grocery store and refusing single use items such as plastic straws can help reduce plastic junk in our oceans and landfills that would otherwise kill wildlife and take ages to break down.
Companies that mass produce new clothing cut costs by using cheaper and cheaper material. That material is plastic. Just as sugar masquerades under various pseudonyms in our foods and beverages, so does plastic in our clothing. Polyester. Rayon. Nylon. Polar fleece. These are all plastic.
As a matter of fact, plastic is so pervasive that avoiding it entirely approaches the impossible. Consequently, for most, the term “zero waste” is aspirational. Less plastic waste is achievable through the clothing we buy and how we buy it.
One major misconception about veganism is that it is an anti-killing movement when, in fact, it is fundamentally an anti-cruelty movement.
For many, the prime motivation for avoiding meat and dairy is to deter animal suffering. Animals used for food are widely abused in factory farms. The torture of animals used for fashion is not better, but more extreme. Fast fashion companies harvest their leather, wool, and fur from countries where regulations protecting animals are light to nonexistent. This opens up the door to atrocities such as animals being hung and skinned alive.
When we buy secondhand, we are choosing not to put money in the pockets of companies that profit from animal suffering.
Those who buy organic produce understand the concept of quality over quantity. We get what we pay for.
While an organic apple may be slightly pricier than its nonorganic neighbor, it is not laced with harmful chemicals. Organic produce is less taxing on our bodies and our environment.
It will come as no surprise that cheap fashion companies are not using organic cotton. And while cotton-based clothing may seem preferable to plastic, its production wreaks havoc on the environment. Cotton is considered the world’s dirtiest crop.
The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry after oil and is second in water use to only the agriculture industry. Toxic chemicals like pesticides run off from these production sites and pollute our rivers, lakes, and streams. Likewise, such toxins as fire retardants, formaldehyde, and dyes in clothing are absorbed into our bodies to the detriment of our health.
Using the internet to shop for preowned clothing is an easy, practical, and enjoyable way to foster an organic lifestyle.
The expectation is not that we all become perfect minimalist, zero waste, organic, vegans overnight. And buying secondhand clothing is just one option.
When triggered to buy something new, simply remember that there is a universe of ethical alternatives at your fingertips.