Fashion Industry Taking Steps to be Less Wasteful

You don't have to put a halt to your shopping—just shop smart. Thrift and consignment stores help save not only money, but the environment too.

You don’t have to put a halt to your shopping—just shop smart. Thrift and consignment stores help save not only money, but the environment too. Photo: Lisa Jong | FlickrCC.

The fashion industry is notoriously wasteful. Every year, thousands of pounds of unused or un-purchased textiles and accessories are sent to landfills to make room for a new season of fashion choices. But it isn’t just large companies that are tossing clothes: people throw out things they don’t want or don’t wear, too—and on average, a person in New York throws out 46 pounds of textiles every year. Now, some initiatives are helping to reduce that enormous amount of waste.

A relatively new company called Wearable Collections has partnered with GrowNYC to collect clothing from people who would otherwise throw them away. Wearable Collection’s CEO, Adam Baruchowitz, believes that his initiative will inspire others in the fashion industry to follow suit and reduce waste and reduce their environmental footprint.

Every year, Americans generate 25 billion pounds of textile waste, or 82 pounds a person. Only about 15 percent of that waste is donated, and the statistics are getting worse every year. Part of them problem is it is a core tenet of the fashion industry to always be ahead of itself, on to the next thing, a philosophy that lends itself to making a lot of waste.

Happily, Wearable Collections isn’t the only company that is working towards a less wasteful future for fashion. Some big companies like women’s store Eileen Fisher are implementing programs for customers to return items when they’re done with them for discounts on future purchases. Levi’s now takes any returned clothing or footwear in exchange for in-store coupons.

Additionally, some companies are creating clothing lines that rely on sustainable practices and renewable sources. Lifestyle company Patagonia has found a way to use recycled plastic bottles in their items, and H&M has begun to use cotton recycled from the clothes it collects into a line of new denim styles.

“People need to learn how to buy less and companies need to learn how to be profitable in selling less,” says Jill Dumain, director of environmental strategy at Patagonia. Hopefully, with more initiatives like these, those goals are on their way to being realized.

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