By Chelsea Zero Waste Coalition member Megan Trenary
(Megan Trenary started sorting her parents’ recycling in the second grade and developed a love for second-hand stores in high school. She has worked in the outdoor retail industry and is a nurse and lactation consultant. Megan has lived in Chelsea since 2012, loves to garden, and has two composting-savvy kids.)
According to the EPA, in 2017, the U.S. alone generated 16,890 tons of textile waste, which was mostly clothing (Textiles: Material-Specific Data | Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling). Of that, 11,150 tons was put in the landfill rather than recycled or incinerated.
For comparison, only 1,760 tons of textile waste were produced in 1960. Even with the advent of modern recycling, the amount of textile waste put in our landfills has since increased 6.5 times in less than one generation’s lifetime.
Were the people of 1960 generally disinterested in fashion or walking around underdressed?
What has prompted a massive turnover in our closets?
We can probably just blame the internet and social media, but that doesn’t fix the problem.
Let’s focus on what we can do. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, right? Start by buying less, making it last longer, and then at the very end recycle it. Reusing can mean so many things. New clothing can simply mean ‘new to you’.
Start with a clothing swap among friends. Then try selling or consigning. If nothing else, donate to your preferred charity. Just know that only about 20 percent of what you donate actually gets sold in the store (START HERE). The rest is recycled, incinerated, or sent overseas to another country’s trash pile.
Try to keep it local. Chelsea alone has a multitude of resources for keeping clothing in use. Why waste fossil fuels shipping it off to another town or country?
When it is safe to resume casual shopping again, Moran’s Consignment and The Find are downtown and worth exploring. Also, Just Between Friends Ann Arbor is a Chelsea-owned business and is a great way to buy and sell children’s clothing.
In addition, Chelsea MOPS holds a mom-to-mom sale and local Facebook groups are very popular for buying, selling, or giving away goods within the community.
If wearing previously owned clothing is unappealing to you, perhaps you can invest in timeless, well-made pieces. Falling victim to extremes in fashion trends feeds the fast fashion machine. The fashion industry invents what is trendy every season because they want you to keep buying.
Try something that will last in your wardrobe through the ever-changing trends. What do YOU like? Well-made clothing from high-quality materials hold up longer and can often be mended. If you do outgrow it, it can be passed on to others to appreciate.
Learn about the companies that you buy from.
What are they doing to reduce their energy use or waste production? Where you spend your money influences how companies behave. They pay attention to market trends, and when greening up the company is a profitable trend, that’s what they will do.
Interested in learning more?
An example of a company working to reduce textile waste: Patagonia