Monday, March 14, 2011

The Wearing of the Green

I consider myself lucky to have a big thrift store like Goodwill right down the street.  I buy things there all the time and I also donate things there all the time. 
A shirt from Goodwill that I've upcycled.  It's green in more ways than one!
But my daughter recently told me that some of the girls in her class have said that wearing clothes bought from Goodwill is ‘gross.’  Now I know girls are mean and kids and teens in general are obsessed with image and labels at this age.  I was guilty of this myself.  I sported Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and 9 West shoes, and like Will Smith, I remember being MORTIFIED that one time my Mom bought me Zips instead of Adidas sneakers.  The bratty neighbors down the street threw yew berries from their bushes at me when I wore them and I ran home crying.  Good times.
All of this got me to thinking; buying a used item of clothing is actually a form of recycling.  Buying a new item of clothing means that that item had be manufactured and manufacturing means the use of resources.   How much of the Earth's resources does the textile industry actually use?  I thought I should do a little research since I’ve been striving to become a part of that industry.  Here is what I found out:
The textile industry uses 2.38 TRILLION (that’s trillion with 12 zeros) gallons of water and about 129 BILLION tons of fuel every year to produce new cloth.  When they’re done producing it, there’s equally disturbing amounts of waste water and air pollution that is created as a byproduct. 
An ordinary cotton tee shirt starts as a cotton plant.  This plant needs to be watered, tended, sprayed with pesticides to protect it, harvested (using fuel) transported (using more fuel) processed (even more fuel) and dyed (water and chemicals) to create fabric. 
From there it most likely travels overseas (more fuel) where it is cut and sewn, packaged (paper and plastic) and transported Back to the US (again with the fuel) to be sold and then finally bought by you or me.  That's more fuel than I want to do the math for. From start to finish this whole process (for one shirt) took 2,000 gallons of water.
 But putting the big carbon footprint aside, here are some other things to consider when buying a pre-owned article of clothing:
  *Many  times I’ve bought something from Goodwill with the tags from a previous store still on it which means it was new anyway and therefore not gross.
  *When I donate to Goodwill, I’m not donating my favorite stuff that I’ve used or worn all the time.  I’m donating the stuff that my family and I hardly ever wore or never even used.  Children’s clothes are almost always like new because they grow out of them too fast to really ruin them.  Less gross than you thought.
  *Goodwill has standards.  They will discard things that are stained and destroyed.  They don’t want to sell those items any more than you or I want to buy them.  Again, less gross than you thought.
  *I wonder how many of these kids have worn USED hand-me-downs from a brother or sister?
Now I don’t expect K to go to school and give a big report on why it’s greener to buy from a thrift store everytime she's teased by fashion conscious mean girls.  They will: a. not care and b. not wait around to hear the facts and figures of the whole thing. 
But for those of you who may have offhandedly said to your daughter, “Ugh!  Who wants to wear something someone else already wore?”  Wasting the Earth’s resources is kind of gross.  Pass that along to your kids, OK?


Jennifer said...

:) the shirt I wore yesterday was a great find a GoodWill for $5! and I have 2 others hanging in my closet that I love - hee hee they have some great stuff there!

Periwinkle Paisley said...

My Goodwill does too. People shouldn't knock it until they try it!

T @ Poppy Place said...

It is really tough when kids are mean but I think they will be mean about pretty much anything, unfortunately :(

I am sorry K. is being picked on.

A lot of the clothes I wore as a kid were castoffs from kind friends and family. As a teenager living in London it was really trendy to shop at secondhand stores for my clothes.

When my kids were young they wore a mix of clothes from the sales rack, homemade or secondhand shops, I figured at some point they would ask for the name brand and if it was on sale they would get it, as I had saved the planet and my wallet a lot up 'til then. We have never had a lot of clothes, near seen the reason for a closet full when you only have one body (He! He!). But with my kids in college and on a budget Value Village and Goodwill are their first stops.

I LOVE Goodwill for many reasons, that we can recycle, we can reuse and they give disabled people a chance at a real life.

Oh I have gone on, sorry. :)

Have a lovely evening, T. :)

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