Our Earth is in a state of crisis.
Governments are scrambling to find solutions to global disasters. For the individual, though, the very idea of tackling these complex issues is overwhelming! What can we do to help when most of the damage done is out of our control?
The answer you seek is direct economic action. You have more power than you think. You are a consumer. Every choice and every purchase can make a difference.
But what choices should you make?
For a better tomorrow, get thrifty.
1. Thrifting Helps Landfills
Our landfill situation is looking dire, especially in the U.S. They're filling up fast, prompting many to wonder, "What do we do when we run out of space?". Many of our landfills are approaching capacity and we're throwing out 10.5 million+ tons of clothing every year.
Fun Fact: If we all decided to stop tossing out our clothing, we'd decrease yearly solid waste generation by about 5%.
2. Thrifting Saves Water
It takes 650 gallons of water to produce a single cotton t-shirt. Cotton production requires tons of water, and so does refining and dying! That means buying just 21 new cotton shirts uses up enough water to empty a small swimming pool. Plus, after production, that water is too polluted to be of any use.
Fun Fact: If everyone in the U.S. decided to replace a single new t-shirt purchase with thrifting, we would save a whopping 215 billion gallons of water. That's enough water to fill almost 326,000 Olympic swimming pools.
3. Thrifting Reduces Carbon Emissions
The fashion industry produces a surprising amount of carbon emissions. Because of the movement towards fast fashion, it's only gotten worse. The sector currently accounts for 10% of all annual global carbon emissions.
Fun Fact: If everyone in the U.S. replaced a new jean purchase with a thrift, we'd prevent almost 11 million metric tons of carbon emissions.
4. Thrifting Saves Our Oceans
35% of the microplastics in our water systems come from synthetic textiles. Every time we wash an article of clothing, they release tiny plastic fibers, which make their way to rivers, lakes, & oceans and damage our planet. The situation is dire. Recent studies indicate the microplastic problem has gotten so bad that we are now eating, drinking, and even breathing microscopic bits of plastic every day.
Fun Fact: If everyone in the United States decided to wash their jeans one less time, we would prevent 16.5 quadrillion microfibers from making their way into our water systems.
The Best Pair of Jeans I've Owned - A Case Study
On top of all the benefits to our environment, the quality of thrift finds is unparalleled! I'd like to introduce you to my favorite item in my closet: a pair of high-waisted Edwin jeans from the 80s.
More than six years my senior, these jeans were built to last. I go through jeans rapidly, like really rapidly. I'm an aspiring field researcher and, also, incredibly clumsy. When I'm not hiking, I'm slipping into ditches, submerging myself in bogs to find frogs, getting stuck in thigh-deep mud, running from reptiles, you name it. Most of the jeans I have last 1-2 years, they go through a lot.
I've been wearing these for six years, and they've only just started to show signs of wear. They're also the most comfortable pair I own. No belt needed.
If I didn't choose these jeans, I would have bought three new pairs. I was curious to see just how much of an impact choosing these jeans have had on the environment, so I did the math:
Trash: The average American throws out 1,642 pounds of garbage a year. With a single choice, I prevented an additional 3 pounds of waste in our landfills.
Water: Each pair of jeans takes 2,900 gallons of water to produce. I saved 8,700 gallons!
Carbon: A pair of jeans produce 33.4kg of carbon dioxide. I prevented a little over 100kgs of CO2 emission!
Ocean: The fast-fashion jeans of my past had polyester; my Edwin jeans use polyurethane. Polyester is the main culprit for microplastics. Polyurethane, in contrast, can be broken down by microorganisms, and it isn't toxic to the environment as it decomposes. Each polyester-filled jean wash releases 50,000 microfibers. Over the past six years, I've prevented roughly 1,300,000 dangerous microfibers from entering our water systems.
The impact of a single pair of jeans is pretty tiny. But imagine, if you will, a world where we all thrifted. Multiply my numbers by 8 billion, and suddenly those numbers are pretty profound!
Direct economic action matters. Each person that takes action helps with collective change. If we, the consumers, make the right choices, we can and will help preserve our beautiful blue planet for future generations.
Together, we have the power to make the changes we wish to see. Let's make a difference!
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