As most New Years resolutions start out, my pledge to solely shop second hand for 365 days was a selfish attempt at bettering myself. Though the financial benefits to second hand shopping are huge, the environmental impact is arguably much greater.
How so, you say? Each year, Americans throw away an average of a whopping 68 POUNDS of clothing and textiles per person (U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste). So with a population of 311,591,917, that brings us to a sickening 21.2 billion pounds of clothing and textile waste just adding to our landfills. The worst part about it- 99% of said waste is recyclable.
What about the manufacturing of fabric? It’s just as bad. Here are some facts from Earth 911:
- Polyester, the most commonly used manufactured fiber, is made from petroleum in an energy-intensive process that emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and acid gases into the air. The process also uses a large amount of water for cooling.
- The manufacturing of nylon emits nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas with a carbon footprint 310 times that of carbon dioxide.
- Rayon, derived from wood pulp, often relies on clearing old growth forests to make way for water-hungry eucalyptus trees, from which the fiber is derived.
- Cotton, found in most clothing, is the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world. It takes one-third of a pound of pesticides to make one t-shirt.
Some good news: on average, Americans buy a total of 10 pounds of clothing per year. In 2006, more than 2 billion pounds of textile waste were kept from landfills due to people shopping second hand.
I have to admit, I have never once thought about the environment while shopping. I have never looked at a t-shirt and thought, “you’re cute, but man, you used a lot of pesticides.” I have to imagine there are a lot of people that are on that same page. In the past few months, I have come to realize that it’s totally possible to have an entire wardrobe (and a good looking one, at that) built from second hand clothing. I’m not saying that you should go cold turkey on shopping like me, all that I’m saying, is give second hand a chance.
Peace, love and recyclables.