How to Reduce Textile Waste For The Planet 101

No amount of colorful berets and stylish blouses could make up for the fact that fashion has triggered an environmental crisis. 

Since 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency discovered that the amount of clothing in landfills have nearly doubled, from 7 million to 14 million tons. The damage doesn’t end there. Even in landfills, chemicals and dyes from decomposing textile waste can generate methane and even contaminate surrounding soil and groundwater. This decomposing process for textile can take as long as 200 years. 

Don’t aim for the trash can. Aim to get rid of clothing by: 

  1. Rewearing it. Do you really need to throw this out, or can you rewear it? Make sure you’re getting the most out of that satin dress because wearing it to that one wedding just isn’t enough. Throwing away a clothing item should always remain a last resort.  
  2. Changing it up. From tie-dye to rhinestones, there are always fun DIYs out there. Instead of splurging on that tie-dye hoodie, try transforming your own hoodie with an easy tie-dye tutorial from TikTok. 
  3. Selling it. For most individuals, the easy solution to getting rid of unwanted clothes often includes yearly donations to second-hand stores. There’s a certain feel-good moment that comes with the word ‘donation’. However, 84% of donated clothing end up in landfills, NOT the arms of new owners. Tap into your entrepreneurial spirit by selling your pre-loved clothes through Poshmark, Mercari, Depop, and more. Ensure that your clothes actually end up with people who will treasure them while making some extra cash. 

Although alternative methods to getting rid of unwanted clothes are always environmentally friendly, the true culprit lies in consumerism. Fast fashion is blamed for most landfill waste but we fail to recognize the driving force behind those companies- consumerism. Consumerism plays a substantial role in textile waste, with the average American responsible for 80 lbs of textile waste every year. 

Our society misleadingly preaches that success begins with change. In the entertainment industry, Hollywood revolves around the pressure to change. Whether the ‘ugly Betty’ transformation in coming-of-age films featuring every ‘it’ girl’s origin story or celebrities donning new outfits everyday in paparazzi shots, the entertainment industry has a clear influence on consumers. 

We are always under the pressure to change, to be something different. While fashion itself can transform someone for the better, the fast fashion industry profits off of these changes.  

The blatant solution to decreasing landfill waste is to simply skip your purchase. The next time you see that oversized t-shirt on sale, restrain the urge to buy it. You don’t need a t-shirt in every color. You don’t need that sweater vest just to stay in style. Work with pieces you already have. The best kind of change starts with making the right choices.    

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