Thrifted clothing and sustainability

Aminat Adebayo

Thrifted clothing, popularly known as second-hand clothes, are cheap/affordable used clothes which in most circumstances are in good condition.

There are various reasons people go thrift-shopping. One is because they believe it allows them to get designer products at a very cheap price. It also gives them the opportunity to select from a wide range of different products, and it reduces the cost for clothing. Aside from the amazing opportunities and discounts individuals get from shopping at thrift store, thrift stores contribute immensely to making our planet a sustainable one. You may ask how.

It is a normal phenomenon for people to shop for new clothes when they change sizes, jobs (securing a new job prompts people to change their wardrobe) and locations (changes in location can bring about a change in clothing) but nowadays shopping has become less about need and more about following the trends.

The cost of production of making new clothing requires several resources that are not limited to land use, water, etc. It takes close to 3,000 liters of water to make one cotton shirt , enough to sustain a person for 900 days. According to a report given by United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP), it takes 3,781 liters of water to make a pair of jeans, from the point of production to the delivery of the finished products to the store.The overuse of these natural resources leads to their depletion and in turn, has a huge impact on our environment.

It was stated that the fashion industry is one of the major polluting industries in the world as more than 80% of clothing ends up in landfills or incinerators. For an item of clothing to be made, it has to pass through several processes including the production of crops, fibers, and other items. All these in the long run play a role in environmental pollution including water, air, and soil pollution. Discarding clothing is not only attributed to wasting resources but it takes centuries for the materials to decompose in a landfill and this degrading process causes textiles to produce greenhouse methane gas, toxic chemicals and leach dyes into the soil and the water bodies. Foreseeably, the fashion industry will be responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions.

The textile industry is also believed to have a leading role in the depletion of local freshwater in the world. Not only is the production of new clothing unsustainable but the transportation of these items also causes air pollution.

Packaging of new clothes also has negative impacts on our environment. New clothes are often packed in disposable bags which may take the form of plastics, or nylons which often make their way into water bodies. This causes water pollution that harms aquatic organisms and contributes to biodiversity loss.

Because of all of these issues, thrifting can contribute to a sustainable planet as it isa great way to reduce waste. Most of the clothes produced nowadays are made out of synthetic material and these clothes do not biodegrade. Therefore, adding to the amount of greenhouse gases released on the planet when clothes are discarded contributes to the effects of climate change.

With thrifted clothes, we can reduce our carbon footprint, thereby reducing the impact on our climate. Like I mentioned earlier about the resources used in the production of new clothes, thrifted clothes help preserve water that would otherwise be used in the production of new clothes; it also helps to reduce chemical pollution and other forms of pollution that take place in producing new clothes.

Nevertheless, every pro has its con. Thrifted clothes can help maintain a sustainable planet but thrift clothes can also pose some health risks. As a result of bacteria and other microorganisms that can be passed via thrift clothes to a new household, diseases can be spread.

In this part of the world, most thrift stores do not launder clothes before setting them out for sale. This implies that vectors like bed bugs or lice previously on the clothing from a different household would get transferred to another household that purchased the clothes. Note that some microorganisms wouldn’t die even when you do the normal laundering process unless hey are subjected to extreme temperatures.

Thrift clothes can also introduce buyers to their allergies. For example, an individual that is allergic to dogs or cats, etc might purchase clothes from a household in which that owned a pet If correct precautions are not taken, thrifted clothes can be harmful to the buyer.

Ultimately, if thorough precautions are taken and cleanliness is ensured, thrifted clothes can have less negative impacts and can also serve a great purpose in mitigating the release of waste in the environment as well as the preservation of resources. It can help us to spend frugally while reducing greenhouse gases, thereby reducing the impact of climate change on the environment. We win and the Earth wins.

Generating better understanding of the links between accelerating global environmental change and human health to support policy making and public education