Some within the clothing industry believe clothing is the number two polluter in the world, right next to the oil industry. Because the clothing industry is incredibly complex: long supply chains, manufacturing, clothing construction, shipping, and the disposal of the each item, we may never know it's full impact on the environment.
There are easy things we can do today to lessen the environmental impact: dispose of our unwanted clothing sustainably, change the way we consume, and when we do purchase clothing, purchase from the used market.
1. Dispose of unwanted clothing by donating.
Only about 15% of textiles are donated each year, the rest ends up in landfills. An outstandingly low number when you realize what happens to donated clothing. The average American throws away over 80 pounds of textile waste per year. These discarded textiles are typically made out of synthetic material that takes hundreds of years to decompose.
Instead of throwing away textiles, donating them is the environmentally responsible thing to do. Most thrift stores, including Goodwill, make sure that damaged or unwanted clothing gets recycled. In fact, half of the clothing donated ends up recycled. 30% ends up as rags and 20% is processed into fiber for things like furniture stuffing, insulation, etc. What happens to the other half? Well, 20% is sold locally, 25% is sold overseas to developing nations, and about 5% is deemed unusable due to mildew.
2. Change the way you consume.
With the advent of fast fashion, we are consuming more clothing that ever; 80 billion new pieces a year. That's 400% more than we did in the 1990's. Because we are consuming so many clothes, we treat them as disposable goods rather than the durable goods they are (or should be).
We need to drastically change the way we consume clothing. Buying clothes because they're deeply discounted or because new styles are coming from H&M and Zara weekly is not sustainable, not to mention, good for your wallet.
That's why Valhalla was founded on the principle of the collective closet. Instead of each individual owning hundreds of items that are rarely worn, we can share a neighborhood closet of thousands of ever changing items; clothes that have a continuing life instead of being discarded after a couple of wears. The collective closet actually lets you consume more but in an incredibly environmentally sustainable way.
3. Purchase used clothing.
Voting with your dollar is one the of the most powerful and easiest way to make a statement about your values. Consumerism is alive and well in the US and one of the best ways to reduce the waste from this behavior is to buy used when possible and when it comes to clothes, there are lots of used choices. Buying used means that you're reducing manufacturing demands - and all that slave labor - and helping keep clothing out of landfills; a double whammy deal!