Shopping with a Conscience


Admittedly I’m not a typical clothing consumer. I simply like to dress nice, often with the help of a personal stylist, integrating new, seasonal items into my rather small, or some might say, capsule wardrobe. Same for shoes. Because of this, I haven’t given much thought to the effects of our collective consumption of clothing and textiles on the environment. But with continued concern for our environment, I decided to explore this topic further.

According to the Council for Textile Recycling, the US generates an average of 25 billion pounds of textiles per year—that’s 82 pounds per US resident. This includes clothing, footwear, accessories, towels, bedding, drapery, and the like. But still?! 82 pounds per YEAR. And typically, only 15% gets donated or recycled, leaving 85% or 21 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste to go to our landfills – each year.

And, unless we curb our consumption, this is projected to grow to 35.4 billion pounds by 2019. This doesn’t have to be the case though. According to fast-fashion retailer H&M, 95% of the clothing thrown away could have been recycled or re-worn.

So, the question is: what do you do with clothing or textiles that you no longer want? Here are three ideas:

  1. Donate them to Goodwill – even bras and underwear will get reused through a textile recycling program
  2. Donate gently used items to shelters or organizations like Dress for Success
  3. Consider a swap. This is particularly useful for children’s clothing

We also recommend taking a closer look at the materials used and opt for high-quality materials like silk and organic cotton that will last longer than polyester, which is energy intensive to produce and a source of harmful emissions (Source: Tonle).

You can also choose to shop from conscious clothing companies like Tonle who takes fabric that large manufacturers don’t use and cuts it into strips to produce its garments. Plus, it uses the smallest scraps mixed with recycled office paper and sticky rice to make its hang tags. Belt buckles, pendants and buttons are made from re-claimed scraps of wood.

We’re fans of Patagonia for their environmental focus and taking a stand against national monument rollbacks. Plus you can trade in used items when you’re finished with them, and they have a “Worn Wear” section that sells recycled and used products in its stores.

Matt & Nat has been a longtime favorite for its vegan leather handbags, wallets, backpacks, briefcases and shoes. Featuring collections for both men and women, all items are made from PU and PVC along with recycled materials such as nylon, cardboard, rubber and cork. And, its linings are made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles.

H&M welcomes used clothing/unwanted garments from any brand, in any condition at its stores across the globe. They then decide whether they go into re-wear, reuse or recycle. The company also has its Conscious Exclusive collection made of high-end environmentally friendly pieces launched once a year.

I’m curious if these are new brands/ideas for you. Are there other favorites? Are you as surprised as I am about our textile consumption?


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