We’ve all done it. Taken that sweater with the hole in it and that half broken shoe and donated it to Goodwill, just wanting it to be out of our closet, and out of our house. We’ve all had good intentions, but is that enough? And what happens to those clothes that don’t sell at Salvation Army anyway? With the U.S. consuming more than 11 million tons of textiles each year, the surplus has to go somewhere. But where is this somewhere?
The answer is the global used clothing trade. The United Nations suggests this trade is valued at over 3.7 million dollars annually and continues to rise. As we consume more goods than ever before, it is impossible to ignore the detrimental impact it is having on the environmental and the global economy.
It is estimated that the US exports 57 billion pounds of clothing to developing nations each year. This clothing floods the local markets and is sold by street vendors. Although it creates jobs and provides affordable apparel, it has devastating long-term effects on the development of these countries. Countries like Uganda, Malaysia, and Haiti can not compete with the cheap prices of these second-hand clothing imports, putting local manufactures out of business. Many developing countries are attempting to ban these imports to tackle the issue of failing economies. These bands would allow room for in-country manufacturing and create much needed jobs and economic stability.
So, now that we have all had our eyes opened to this complex global trade. What can we do?
1) A clever man solves a problem. A wise man avoids it.
Like all good solutions, this problem also starts with prevention. Fast fashion is a relatively new term (feel free to use it to impress your friends). It is the phrase used to describe the developed world’s deep desire to buy cheap clothing that fits current trends, at the expense of quality. These are those shirts we buy 2 for $5, or those $2.99 leggings. Although they might feel like a good idea at that time, we must begin to think about the long-term effects they will have the the environment, and the role it will play in the global economy. Choosing an ethically made, high-quality piece is a great way to become part of the solution. Allmade is a great example of the perfect combination. An ethically made, high quality garment, produced from recycled water bottles. We like to call it the water bottle t-shirt. Choosing options like this, is a great way to make a long-lasting impact.
2) Nobody wants your old underwear
We all know it’s tempting to go through our closets and just throw things in a garbage bag, put it in our garage for 2 months, and then finally remember to drop it off at the local thrift store. But, we must remember to be respectful and not donate something that we wouldn’t want to receive ourselves. Plus, if the donation center find things that are wet, moldy, or contaminated, they have to send it to a landfill. This adds up to about 13 millions tons in landfills each year. So keep in mind to only donate things others can use as is. This will ensure your clothes are benefiting someone and staying out of landfills.
3) Stay Local
Donating isn’t all bad. It can help to boost your local economy by giving jobs and supporting charities in your neighborhood. We recommend finding businesses and organizations that buy and sell locally. This will help clear your conscience of any doubt that your old clothes are being shipped overseas. What a great way to take part in the advancement of your community.
4) Turn your second-hands into third and forth hands
Before making the final decision to bring your clothes somewhere, consider keeping it within your network. Host a clothing swap party. Drink some wine, eat some food, and throw all your clothes in a pile and exchange. Not only will you get rid of clothes you no longer wear, you get to walk away with a whole new wardrobe. Being socially conscious looks good on everyone.
Keeping these four simple guidelines in mind will help make a positive impact on your local neighborhood, and the global economy. A Vivienne Westwood says, “Buy less, choose well, make it last.”
Comment below to tell us solutions you have found for your old clothes.