Do you know where your clothing donations go?
We're highlighting one of the main problems driving the current Fashion Crisis.
Over the last 30 years, most consumers are buying 5x more clothes and typically only wear them 7x before we donate, dump, or just let it sit in our closet deadzone.
The main reason for this shift in shopping behavior and the way we think about curating our closet, is due to the rise in availability of fast fashion (think H&M, Zara, Forever 21) and their super low prices on trend driven clothing.
The majority of clothes nowadays are made of synthetic fibers composed of plastics and polyester and are mass produced. The working conditions in these factories are often unsafe for factory workers contributing to larger scale societal and systemic issues.
When shopping store racks or perusing online catalogs as consumers, it is uncommon to think about what happens behind the scenes. We often gravitate towards a certain style, pattern or color to decide if a garment is right for us. Or we think about what we need based on where we may be going - i.e. shopping for vacation, a special event or night out, new work clothes, etc.
After style often comes price when we look at the tag, and that is often a determining factor if we will buy something. When something is cheap(er) or at a lower price point, it's often easy to justify the purchase because it feels like a great value.
In one of our recent articles, we encouraged you to take an additional step and become a “label turner” and go an extra step to learn about the materials that the garment you may be purchasing is made of. Investing in the right materials is a primary indicator of quality, durability, and sustainability.
Based on these stats and the growing fast fashion’s creation of disposable clothing, the phrase, ‘you get what you pay for’ can often ring true.
The Fast Fashion Dump
Understanding Where Our Clothes End Up
The fury of ever changing ‘trends’ and need for something new has driven mass consumption at more frequent rates. The model of fast fashion brands is based on over producing at a low cost, with lower quality to be able to offer cheap prices. This transition in manufacturing models has created a toxic trend in ‘fashion’ with the mission of spending more from our wallets.
The US leads in the amount of exported textiles (i.e. clothes, fabrics, unused garments, etc) that often come from donations, over supply, faded trends, and discarded clothing that had a realistic shelf life of only one season of wear.
Many of these exported textiles end up in developing countries in South America and West Africa through compressed bales that get shipped overseas. Originally receiving these donations as a source of clothing was beneficial as they could be provided or resold to the communities, but it has since become a serious burden with the volume far exceeding what the members of these communities can do with them.
We encourage you to take a few minutes and watch this recent CBS News Article that illustrates the systemic issues the fashion industry has created in recent years.
Many of these garments are not able to be resold to local markets & are ending up in landfills, spilling onto the beaches or ending up into the ocean in what is called, ‘Fast Fashion Dumps’. Discarded fashion runs the shorelines, and rots in heaps on what used to be pristine land and natural habitats. This may make you realize that ‘donations’ and ‘recycled’ clothing is not as charitable as it may seem.
In Guana specifically, it is estimated that over 15 million items arrive each week to these areas without the permission of the people who get left to deal with the textile trash.
Learn more about the problem with polyester and synthetic fibers here.
From our own team at Third Piece, we were not familiar with this practice and it is something we were researching when continuing to find ways and reasons to be as ‘zero waste’ as possible. As a company, our mission is to be part of the solution with our slow fashion model and for us it started with wanting to learn more about the problem.
Taking Responsibility - Moving Toward Change
It’s about taking steps towards a more sustainable slow fashion journey.
We can not create change without understanding our role and responsibility in the matter. There is room to change our habits, grow, and do better to reduce our waste. It all starts with understanding our responsibility and the negative impact our shopping habits can have on the environment and the health and safety of society.
After reading this, we encourage you to go into your own closet and reflect! For now, try avoiding shopping at fast fashion brands, impulse un-necessary buys, and over consumption.
We are here to join together toward a more sustainable slow fashion journey! Stay tuned and join us this month to shop mindfully with purpose & passion! And remember to take time to educate yourself on your impact on our environment & reflect on how important it is to shop responsibly.
Join our community group to share tips, tricks and your own thoughts to help re-write what it means to shop fashion!