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Your Next Item of Clothing Should Be so Expensive It Hurts

Author: Marc Bain | Published: October 2, 2015

If you’ve ever found yourself buying clothes just because they’re cheap, or if shopping itself has become a form of entertainment for you, I’ve got a proposal: The next time you buy something, spend a whole lot on it. Enough that it makes you sweat a little.

The point is to make you pause and ask yourself, “How much do I really want this?”

In the US and much of the industrialized world, cheap clothes are everywhere. At any fast-fashion chain store, you’ll find piles upon piles of jeans that cost less than $20. The problem is, all that low-cost clothing is produced, sold, and finally discarded in mass quantities, which has serious consequences for the environment, the workers paid poorly to make them, and even the mental well-being of the people buying them.

As a fashion reporter, I like clothes probably more than most. But I also know all the troubling facts represented by those cheap t-shirts and jeans. For more than a year now, I’ve set myself a simple goal for every clothing purchase. It’s an entirely personal choice that I feel helps me buy less and enjoy my purchases more. My hope is that it also reduces how much I contribute to some of those issues mentioned above.

The goal is to spend at least $150 on each item of clothing. And I propose you give it a try.

Let me explain

The immediate reaction I get when I tell people about this goal—and I call it a goal because I don’t always live up to it—is that $150 is a lot to spend for a piece of clothing.

That’s especially true if your standard for pricing is a store like Primark, the insanely cheap Irish fast-fashion chain that recently opened its first US location. For designer fashion, where a t-shirt can easily clear $150, it’s actually a pretty low hurdle.

But it’s enough that it causes me to seriously hesitate, which is the real point. It forces me to think about just how much I want that item of clothing, how much I’ll wear it, and whether I think the value it offers is worth a significant cost.

Importantly, $150 is also enough that I can’t make these purchases all the time, at least not without sacrificing elsewhere or going broke. It’s an investment, rather than the cheap buzz of getting something new.But it’s enough that it causes me to seriously hesitate, which is the real point. It forces me to think about just how much I want that item of clothing, how much I’ll wear it, and whether I think the value it offers is worth a significant cost.

Now, not everyone should have the same dollar limit. Each person should determine a standard based on income and other financial responsibilities. But it should be just enough that it causes you to wince slightly. My limit—as a married, childless, working journalist, saving up to one day buy an apartment—might fall somewhere between that of a single parent on an hourly wage and that of a high roller like author Buzz Bissinger, who wrote of his addiction to Gucci in GQ. (If you’re shopping like Bissinger, though, setting a dollar floor isn’t going to solve anything.)

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What’s the Second Most Polluting Industry? (We’ll Give You a Hint – You’re Wearing It)

Author: Marina Qutab | February 15, 2017 

Have you ever taken a moment to look at the tag on your clothes to see where your clothes were made? Chances are, the tag will read: “Made in China” or another country outside of the USA. Although the label may seem harmless because a lot of our products are manufactured in different countries, there is so much more to the story than just a “made in ____”  label. We live in a “fast fashion” world, where companies produce high volumes of low-priced clothing at the expense of the environment and workers. Companies like Forever 21 and Zara process one million garments per day. Just imagine the resources involved, both human and otherwise. In the world’s least developed countries, an estimated 40 million people sew more than 1.5 billion garments in 250,000 factories and sweatshops each year. In many cases, these workers are not provided with basic workers rights, fair wages, and ethical working conditions.

The Environmental Consequences of Fast Fashion

Cotton, one of the fashion industry’s most frequently used materials, is among the most pesticide-intensive crops on the planet. It’s estimated that one pound of cotton requires at least one-third of a pound (136 grams) of pesticides. To help you understand, it takes half a pound (227 grams) of cotton to make the average t-shirt. In addition, cotton is a water-intensive crop. To produce one pair of jeans, it takes more than 1,800 gallons of water. It’s no wonder then that the $3 trillion fashion industry is the second most polluting industry, just behind oil.

Uzbekistan, the world’s sixth leading producer of cotton, is a clear example of how cotton can negatively impact a region’s environment. In the 1950s, two rivers in Central Asia, the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya were rerouted from the Aral sea to provide irrigation for cotton production in Uzbekistan and nearby Turkmenistan. Today, water levels in the Aral are less than 10 percent of what they used to be just 50 years ago. As the Aral dried up, the communities and especially the fisheries that depended on the water supply crumbled. Over time, the sea became over-salinated and encumbered with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers from the nearby fields. Dust from the arid, exposed lakebed, containing these toxins and salt saturated the air, which created a public health crisis, negatively affected the farm fields for growing crops, contaminating the soil. The Aral is increasingly transforming into a dry sea, and the loss of what used to be a large body of water has caused the region’s summers to become hotter and drier and the winters to become much colder.

Uzbekistan is not the only example of how the conventional cotton farming industry has wreaked havoc on the environment and our health. Regions such as Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin, Pakistan’s Indus River, and the Rio Grande in Mexico and the U.S.

Although organic cotton is a much more sustainable alternative, this farming mechanism is rarely used – at only one percent of all the cotton worldwide being grown this way. Organically growing cotton does have its challenges, however. The crop is still water intensive and the clothing made from it may still be dyed unnaturally with chemicals and shipped to be sold globally.

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What Happens When Fashion Becomes Fast, Disposable and Cheap?

Author: Zhai Yun Tan | Published on: April 10, 2016

When it comes to clothes these days, maybe you should ask: What’s your waste size?

You know you have those clothes sitting in your closet: That shirt you spent less than $10 on because it looked cool for a second, or that skirt you only wore once before it went out of fashion.

Fashion cycles are moving faster than ever. A Quartz article in December revealed how fashion brands like Zara, Gap and Adidas are churning out new styles more frequently, a trend dubbed “fast fashion” by many in the industry. The clothes that are mass-produced also become more affordable, thus attracting consumers to buy more.

“It used to be four seasons in a year; now it may be up to 11 or 15 or more,” says Tasha Lewis, a professor at Cornell University’s Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design.

The top fast fashion retailers grew 9.7 percent per year over the last five years, topping the 6.8 percent of growth of traditional apparel companies, according to financial holding company CIT.

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Cotton Trade: Where Does Your T-Shirt Grow?

Author: Susanna Rustin | Published on: August 9, 2014

Moise Adihou stands by a rough wooden bench beneath a mango tree, surrounded by a small crowd that has gathered to hear his story.

“We were in the field,” he says. “Abraham came to visit after school to tell us he came first in his class. We were happy, so we wanted to celebrate.”

Adihou is a neat, sombre man in his 50s, and what he is describing took place in the village of Gaohungagon in the Zou department of Benin, West Africa. Abraham was 13 and Adihou’s eldest child.

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Fast Fashion Is Creating an Environmental Crisis

Author: Alden Wicker | Published on: September 1, 2016

Visitors who stepped into fashion retailer H&M’s showroom in New York City on April 4, 2016, were confronted by a pile of cast-off clothing reaching to the ceiling. A T.S. Eliot quote stenciled on the wall (“In my end is my beginning”) gave the showroom the air of an art gallery or museum. In the next room, reporters and fashion bloggers sipped wine while studying the half-dozen mannequins wearing bespoke creations pieced together from old jeans, patches of jackets and cut-up blouses.

This cocktail party was to celebrate the launch of H&M’s most recent Conscious Collection. The actress Olivia Wilde, spokeswoman and model for H&M’s forays into sustainable fashion, was there wearing a new dress from the line. But the fast-fashion giant, which has almost 4,000 stores worldwide and earned over $25 billion in sales in 2015, wanted participants to also take notice of its latest initiative: getting customers to recycle their clothes. Or, rather, convincing them to bring in their old clothes (from any brand) and put them in bins in H&M’s stores worldwide. “H&M will recycle them and create new textile fibre, and in return you get vouchers to use at H&M. Everybody wins!” H&M said on its blog.

It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s a gross oversimplification. Only 0.1 percent of all clothing collected by charities and take-back programs is recycled into new textile fiber, according to H&M’s development sustainability manager, Henrik Lampa, who was at the cocktail party answering questions from the press. And despite the impressive amount of marketing dollars the company pumped into World Recycle Week to promote the idea of recycling clothes—including the funding of a music video by M.I.A.—what H&M is doing is nothing special. Its salvaged clothing goes through almost the exact same process as garments donated to, say, Goodwill, or really anywhere else.

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The Touch, the Feel, of GE Cotton?

(Beyond Pesticides, October 8, 2014) After headliners like genetically engineered (GE) Roundup-Ready corn and soybeans failed to deliver on claims of decreased pesticide use and environmental sustainability, instead leading to the rise of “superweeds,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved more dangerous, 2,4-D-resistent versions   shortly after. Now after the predictable failure of Roundup-Ready cotton, USDA is set to approve dicamba-tolerant GE cotton, coming soon to a t-shirt near you.   Feeling a bit itchy now?

USDA’s proposal to deregulate and allow into the environment yet another GE variety will inevitably lead to damaging effects on non-GE crops, native plant species, and environmental biodiversity. USDA acknowledges that the purpose of dicamba-tolerant cotton “is to provide growers with an additional in-crop weed management option to manage [glyphosate resistant] broadleaf weed species,” but introducing crops resistant to other chemical technologies like dicamba may provide short-term relief from resistant weeds, but is not a long-term, sustainable solution to burgeoning weed resistance. This current proposal also includes dicamba-tolerant soybean, as well as a stacked tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate.

Contrary to industry proclamations, providing these GE “tools” to farmers only keeps them on a perpetual chemical treadmill that continues to propagate resistant weeds, endanger our environment, health, and agricultural economy.

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Microfiber Madness: Synthetic Fabrics Harm Wildlife, Poison the Food Supply and Expose You to Toxic Chemicals

Author: Reynard Loki | Published on: July 20, 2016

Doing laundry isn’t something most of us enjoy doing. And now the evidence is clear that the world’s aquatic animals don’t enjoy it either. It turns out that clothes made from synthetic fibers shed tiny plastic microfibers in every wash. This fibrous debris goes from your washing machine, through the municipal sewage system and ends up in all sorts of waterways—marine, coastal and freshwater—where the tiny fibers are ingested by fish, crabs and other aquatic wildlife. In turn, many of these animals end up in our food supply—and on our dinner plates. It seems we are slowly, and literally, eating the shirts off our backs.

A host of recent studies have sounded alarm bells. One frightening conclusion is that these microfibers—a subcategory of microplastics—are even more pervasive in the environment than microbeads, tiny plastic beads common in beauty products that were recently banned in the United States.

One of first researchers to lift the veil on this environmental crisis was ecologist Mark Browne. In 2011, Browne, now a senior research associate at the University of New South Wales in Australia, published a paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology that concluded microfibers from synthetic fabrics like nylon and acrylic make up 85 percent of human-made debris across the world’s shorelines. The vast majority of that synthetic waste is being released from clothing when it’s washed in laundry machines.

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Cotton, Cashmere, Chemicals – What Really Goes Into Making Your Clothes?

Author: Elizabeth Grossman | Published on: June 12, 2015

The US Federal Trade Commission has something to say about what you wear.

While not a fashion arbiter and unable to advise on attire for family gatherings, the FTC oversees what appears on the labels inside your clothes. As the federal agency responsible for enforcing the Textile Products Identification Act and related laws, it makes sure clothing is accurately labeled with its fabric content. But it turns out, apart from these laws (and a few — including some state laws — that restrict certain hazardous substances from being used in children’s clothing), there is no overarching US law that regulates or requires listing of materials outside of fabrics that go into producing our clothing.

Why does this matter? Because manufacturers use hundreds of substances to produce clothing that don’t show up on clothing labels. And many of these are hazardous to the environment and to human health.

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Beyond Monsanto’s GMO Cotton: Why Consumers Need to Care What We Wear

As the linked article below this article points out, Monsanto’s new super-toxic GMO dicamba-resistant cotton is already wreaking havoc across the U.S. But even beyond Monsanto’s latest “Frankencotton,” there are a myriad of reasons why we need to start paying as much attention to what we wear as we do to what we eat.

We are not only what we eat, but also what we wear. The U.S. is the largest clothing and apparel market in the world, with 2016 sales of approximately $350 billion. The average American household spends about four percent of its income on clothing, more than one-third of what we spend on food.

If Americans are what we wear, then we—even the most rebel youth, conscious women, organic consumers, and justice advocates—judged by what we wear (not just what we say) are increasingly corporatized. The fashion statement we’re apparently making with what we wear is that we don’t care. A look at the labels in our clothing, or the corporate logos on our shoes, reveals that the brand name bullies, the transnational giants in the garment and apparel industry, reign supreme.

Walk into any department store or clothing retailer. Look for a label that says “certified Organic Cotton or Wool and Fair Trade.” Search through rack after rack, in store after store, but you aren’t likely to find very many items that are non-GMO, organic and Fair Trade certified.

There are, however, a growing number of online and retail clothing companies and brands, which offer non-sweatshop, natural fiber and organic clothes, accessories, and textiles. These companies include Patagonia, PACT, Under the Canopy, Fibershed, Savory Institute, TS Designs, Maggie’s Organics, Indigenous, Hempy’s, and many others.  Unfortunately, most U.S. consumers, even organic consumers, have never heard of these socially and environmentally responsible clothing companies.

Given the importance of clothing and fashion in American culture and the economy, there are a number of rarely discussed, yet crucial issues we need to consider—health, environmental, and ethical—before we pull out our wallets to purchase yet another item of clothing or a textile product.

1.Synthetic fibers in clothing and textiles pollute the environment, the ocean, and ultimately the food chain. Clothes and textiles are made from both natural fibers, like cotton, hemp and wool, and synthetic fibers, like fleece, rayon or polyester. Synthetic fibers, often marketed as wrinkle-resistant, durable or easy-to-clean, are industrially produced, utilizing large amounts of energy and toxic chemicals. Polyester, for example, is made from petroleum, a non-renewable fossil fuel. Rayon, technically “semi-synthetic,” is derived from wood pulp and transformed into fiber through a highly water- and chemical-intensive process in notoriously polluting factories.

Once manufactured into fleece sweaters, bath towels or sheets, and brought home by consumers, synthetic fibers pollute the natural environment in the form of “micro-plastics.”

Whereas natural fibers, including cotton or wool, biodegrade over time, synthetic fibers do not. Scientists and marine biologists have begun sounding the alarm that clothing and other consumer products containing synthetic fibers (such as polyester, nylon, fleece and acrylics) release plastic-like micro-particles when washed, passing through sewage treatment plants, polluting surface waters and the oceans, where they are eaten and bio-accumulate in fish and other marine life, eventually contaminating the seafood that we eat.

 “[S]ynthetic fibers are problematic because they do not biodegrade, and tend to bind with molecules of harmful chemical pollutants found in wastewater, such as pesticides or flame retardants.”

 As Reynard Loki pointed out in Alternet last year:

Finished apparel products contain large quantities of chemical substances . . . many of which are released from garments during consumer washing. This indicates that microfibers are of particular concern regarding their potential to transport hazardous chemicals into the environment. Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) receive large amounts of microfibers daily. While most of these microfibers are removed, a significant amount is still released into the local environment. Aquatic organisms throughout the food chain consume micro-plastics and microfibers both directly and indirectly. Within the food chain, these particles have been found to cause physical and chemical impacts, resulting in starvation and reproductive consequences in species. Synthetic fleece jackets release an average of 1.7 grams of microfibers with every wash. Older synthetic fleece jackets shed nearly two times the amount of microfiber than new ones.

If you already have clothing or textiles containing synthetic fibers, and certainly most of us do, please consult the articles below for how you can safely and responsibly wash these garments, by using a washing laundry bag called “Guppy Friend”  or by installing a filter in your washing machine.

But perhaps the safest thing to do is to stop buying clothing and textiles containing synthetic fibers.

2. Non-organic cotton is one of the most genetically engineered, pesticide- and chemically-contaminated crops in the world. Over 90 percent of the cotton grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered, spliced with the Bt toxin and modified to survive the spraying of large quantities of Monsanto’s controversial herbicide, Roundup. GMO cotton is grown on 70 million acres across the world, including the overwhelming majority of cotton grown in the U.S. India, Pakistan and China. While occupying a relatively small percentage of arable land globally (2.4 percent), GMO/chemical cotton crops account for a staggering 25 percent of global insecticide sales. In the U.S., it typically takes a third of a pound of toxic agricultural chemicals to produce a pound of cotton—that is, the amount of cotton it takes to make one T-shirt. Several pesticides used on cotton are known carcinogens, including Roundup.

Not only do these pesticides linger on the clothes worn next to human skin, but the fish, marine and wildlife surrounding or downstream from cotton fields also suffer from pesticide pollution. Non-organic cotton crops utilize large amounts of chemical fertilizers that routinely pollute groundwater and emit nitrous oxide, the most destructive of all greenhouse gases—300 times more destructive per weight than CO2. Non-organic cotton requires large amount of irrigation water and is typically processed and dyed with synthetic chemicals. Routine spraying of non-organic cotton fields with herbicides such as Roundup, and application of chemical fertilizers, not only kill soil fertility, but also destroy the soil’s’ ability to properly infiltrate and store rainwater and to naturally sequester excess carbon from the atmosphere.

3. GMO and toxic cotton: You’re eating it. Keep in mind that most of the world’s highly contaminated cotton seeds and cotton gin trash end up in animal feed (especially non-organic dairy) and in low-grade vegetable cooking oils, purchased by consumers or used in fast food restaurants and school cafeterias. Non-organic cotton is one of the most toxic crops on the planet.

Government regulatory agencies, prompted by large cotton farmers and the garment industry, falsely claim that cotton is not a “food crop,” (in spite of the fact that 60 percent of what is harvested by weight ends up in the food chain). This means that super-toxic pesticides and herbicides are allowed to be sprayed, in copious quantities, on the cotton plant. So-called cotton by-products—cotton seeds, cotton seed oil and cotton gin trash—end up being sold and consumed as ingredients in both animal feed and human food. The pesticide residues in cottonseed accumulates in the fatty tissues of dairy cows, and are passed on in the milk and dairy products consumed by humans. Cottonseed oil is routinely laced into a variety of food products, from vitamins to potato chips, and is often addes to olive oil without being labeled. This means that GMOs and pesticide residues from cotton crops find their way into a wide range of non-organic food products, triggering health issues including food allergies, cancer and liver, kidney and immune system damage.

4. Agricultural workers are being poisoned by toxic cotton. Farmers, farm workers and residents of rural communities who work and live in closest proximity to cotton fields suffer from exposure to pesticides, GMOs and chemicals. Many of these agricultural workers suffer from acute pesticide poisoning. Rural cotton farmers in particular lack the necessary safety equipment and training for handling the hazardous pesticides, leading to chronic and acute health issues. Pesticides used in cotton farming have been shown to cause endocrine dysfunction, with farmers in rural and poor areas especially at risk.

5. Millions of cotton farmers in the developing world are exploited in the global marketplace. Small cotton farmers in developing countries struggle financially, unable to compete in the global market because of multi-billion dollar (taxpayer-financed) U.S. cotton subsidies. The result is both economically and socially devastating. Subsidies allow U.S. cotton farmers to sell cotton at less than the price of production, lowering market prices for cotton, while production costs continue to rise along with the cost of seeds and pesticides. Thus, cotton farming in some developing countries is no longer financially viable, due to U.S. subsidies. Developing countries dependent on agricultural production falter economically, as farmers fall into debt. India’s cotton farmers are committing suicide at an alarming rate in response to this phenomenon, its once-thriving cotton belt since renamed the “suicide belt.”

6. Most garments are manufactured in sweatshops, such as those in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan and Viet-Nam, that routinely abuse and exploit their workers. Paid less than minimum wage, less than a living wage, and often deprived even of these wages, garment factory workers suffer from unsafe working conditions, physical, psychological and sexual abuse, 18-hour work shifts and other illegal labor practices in an industry that prospers from the dehumanization of its labor force. Women make up the overwhelming percentage of garment factory workers who are forced to work in these conditions under the threat of extreme poverty. Obscured by the maze of global industry, labor laws remain unenforced in sweatshops, while those who sell these garments to consumers claim ignorance of the exploitation from which they profit.

7. Chemical-intensive clothing poses dangers to human health. Skin is the body’s largest organ. One of its major jobs is to protect internal systems. But skin also acts as a conduit, a way of entering the bloodstream through absorption. Chemicals and pesticides from synthetic materials and non-organic cotton make their way into human bodies through our skin. If you care about what you put in your body, you must also care what you put on your body. Health issues from such toxic chemical exposure range from headache to asthma to cancer.

8. The dangers of GMO/ chemical cotton and synthetic fibers increase the more your clothing promises. “Easy care” garments are especially saturated by chemicals, such as formaldehyde, triclosan and pre-fluorinated chemicals, to give clothes features such as anti-microbial, anti-odor or anti-wrinkle characteristics. Formaldehyde, used to eliminate wrinkles, static, odor and bacteria from clothes, is highly toxic and known to cause cancer, skin ulcerations, heart palpitations, eczema, asthma and other health issues. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies pre-fluorinated chemicals—which make fabric stain resistant—as cancer-causing agents. Triclosan is another chemical used in clothing to prevent the growth of bacteria on athletic clothing. These chemicals in “easy care” garments enter the bloodstream via the skin. Clothing containing nanoparticles, often marketed as stain- or odor-resistant, represents a new and ominous health and environmental threat. Nanoparticles in consumer products are neither labeled nor safety-tested.

9. What women wear “down there” is not as innocuous as you may think. Because feminine hygiene products are considered “medical devices,” those who manufacture pads and tampons are not required to disclose their ingredients. Bleached and made from the chemical- and pesticide-drenched materials of non-organic cotton and rayon (wood pulp), pads and tampons contain various ingredients that may be toxic and absorbed through skin and mucous membranes. The FDA regulates the process through which tampon materials are bleached, claiming that levels of dioxins (toxic, chemically-related compounds common in environmental pollutants) are at or below the “detectable level” and that such trace amounts do not trigger health concerns. The World Health Organization explains that “dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer.” Dioxins are present in environmental pollution, and commonly consumed by humans through food. Alhough new bleaching procedures for tampon materials generate a significantly less amount of dioxins, trace amounts remain.

Cotton used in pads and tampons also contain the pesticide residue from the highly treated crop, as well as genetically modified ingredients. What looks like cotton can also be bleached wood pulp, or rayon, a semi-synthetic material made in a chemically-intensive process. Toxic Shock Syndrome, a rare and dangerous illness caused by a bacterial infection from Staphylococcus aureus, has been linked to super-absorbent tampons made of a blend of synthetic materials including rayon. Toxic Shock Syndrome occurs from leaving such tampons inserted for long periods of time, creating both an environment for the bacteria to grow as well as tears and abrasions inside the vagina.  As with anti-odor clothing, tampons with fragrance or anti-odor properties contain more chemicals that may be harmful to health. Safer alternatives to conventional feminine hygiene products include organic tampons and pads.

10. The choices you make regarding your clothing and textiles are not only expressions of style or identity, but are vital to personal health as well as environmental and ethical responsibility. You should feel good in your clothes—good about the way your clothes were produced and made, good about their effects on your health, and good about the way they make you feel. Consumerist culture is toxic in the way it encourages people to constantly buy and replace clothing produced through unethical conditions. It can be difficult to divorce yourself from this toxic culture, to establish your clothing choices outside of this pressure. To not care about clothes and textiles is not the solution. The solution, rather, is to care what you wear. The solution is to care how fibers are produced and processed, to care how your clothes are made, to care what is in the garments you wear next to your skin, and ultimately, to care how you feel wearing them.

It’s time to care about what we put on or in our bodies and into the environment. It’s time to address the issue of sweatshops in the fields as well as sweatshop factories. It time to Care What We Wear as we consider Clothes for a Change.

What Actually Happens to Your Donated Clothing?

Author: Dr. Joseph Mercola | Published: January 17, 2017 

Most Americans have closets overflowing with clothing — some of which may rarely if ever be worn. Inexpensive clothing — so-called “fast fashion” — has become so common, it’s not unusual for people to throw away clothes worn only once or twice.

In fact, Americans buy 500 percent more clothing today than we did in the 1980s.1But the low price tag is deceptive. Upon further scrutiny, each item of clothing exacts a significant toll on the environment, and on human health across the globe.

Each year, Americans buy an astounding 22 billion items of clothing, and only 2 percent of these items are made in the U.S. Transportation alone, since each item has been shipped numerous times from country to country by the time it ends up in a retail store, creates an enormous amount of air pollution.

In an apparent reaction to decades of excess, recent years have seen a revival of “minimalism” and more environmentally-conscious fashion.

Bestselling books like Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” have led many to clear out their previously brimming closets. But what actually happens to all of the discarded clothing?

Most of Your Discarded Clothes End Up in Landfills

Most people will drop clothes off at a donation center such as Goodwill, thinking they will get re-sold to someone with limited means who really needs them. In reality, much of the discarded clothing ends up in landfills.

In 2013 alone, a staggering 12.8 million tons of textiles were sent to landfills — that’s more than 7 percent of the total U.S. landfill waste — costing charitable organizations millions of dollars in various fees and transport expenses, to boot.2

But the vast majority are sold to textile recyclers and carpet manufacturers. According to a 2006 report by ABC News,3 upward of 90 percent of clothing donations to charitable organizations end up with textile recyclers.

Only 10 percent are offered for sale to struggling Americans looking for a bargain. As noted by The Huffington Post:4

Knowing how Goodwill works can help you make smarter decisions when deciding if another jeans purchase is really worth it for you, for the donations staff and for the environment.”

It’s also worth noting that those used clothing donation bins you may find scattered throughout your neighborhood typically belong to for-profit textile recycling companies that sometimes falsely disguise themselves as charitable organizations.5

What Happens to Your Clothes Once You Drop Them Off With Goodwill?

According to Huffington Post associate lifestyle editor Suzy Strutner, Goodwill will sort through donations to determine what can be sold and what cannot. If it’s in near-perfect condition, it will remain on the sales floor for four weeks. After that, the item gets sent to a “Buy the Pound” liquidation outlet.

Most other charitable organizations that deal in used clothing operate in in the same way.6

Whatever isn’t sold in these outlet stores gets sent on to Goodwill auctions, where you bid on entire bins without knowing precisely what you’re getting. Whatever still remains at this point is sent to textile recycling organizations such as SMART, a trade association for textile recyclers.

KEEP READING ON MERCOLA.COM