The Most Sustainable Clothing is Second Hand Clothing
Updated: Jun 12
This is the NUMBER ONE piece of information that I can give you: If you are planning on shopping, THE MOST SUSTAINABLE CLOTHING YOU CAN BUY IS SECOND HAND CLOTHING. Period. End of story.
Want to know why? It is the simple math of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” When you purchase something that already exists, we reduce the finite resources that are needed and we reuse the resources already in existence so they don’t go to waste. The more we give vintage and second hand pieces new life, i.e. the more we recycle, the smaller impact we have on our environment by decreasing demand for new retail items and delaying existing articles from ending up in the landfill. This is why the most sustainable choice you can make when purchasing clothing is to purchase second hand.
Want more information? Keep reading.
What are these resources I speak of?
The fashion industry accounts for 10% of the world’s carbon emission--compared to aviation’s 2%. It is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and pollutes the oceans with microplastics which end up in our food chain and drinking water.
Textile manufacturing emits 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases annually. That’s more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
What’s more, 85% of the textiles the US generates ends up going to landfills. We are buying more than ever from a market that values quality less than ever. So it is inevitable that articles will be quickly trashed. This ritual of consumption has a devastating effect on the planet and our wallets.
We all have the power to make fashion better by shopping second hand when we have a need.
Each time you choose second hand your environmental footprint gets smaller and smaller.
Even if you only choose second hand one time a year--you are still making a difference.
Still not making sense?
Let’s look at a shirt as an example:
It takes 713 gallons of water to make one cotton shirt (planetaid.org). For reference, this is what the average person drinks in 3.9 years. A polyester shirt uses less water but emits more greenhouse gasses per kilogram and has double the carbon footprint of a cotton shirt as it is a chemically created fabric and less likely to break down.
So how do we break this cycle? Shopping second hand, via vintage resale apps or in person thrift shops, is a great start to reduce your personal consumption, but it will send a larger message to the corporations who are responsible for the industrial waste and consumption. Let your dollars do the talking when you choose to express your style with an article that already exists.