This quote appears in Patagonia’s latest catalog. The entire catalog is dedicated to reducing the impact of clothing on the environment. Patagonia is unique as a clothing company, understanding their product produces adverse environmental effects and lessening or eliminating that where possible. Perhaps most radically, they’d prefer you didn’t buy at all. They work to make sure their clothing stands “the test of time” so you don’t need new, and also provide services to fix or repair your gear (or instruct you on how to fix it yourself!) They have a thriving market for “Worn Wear” for when your size or tastes change. It is a very revolutionary stance for a clothing company.
“Fast fashion” has become an epidemic in the clothing industry. According to the World Resources Institute, the average consumer bought 60 percent more clothes in 2014 than in 2000, but kept each garment for half as long. Consumers don’t realize how much environmental damage this is doing, in addition to creating terrible working conditions for so many who create these throwaway clothes. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally, after agriculture. The UN states that the fashion industry consumes more energy than the aviation and shipping industry combined.
As a family, we try to limit our clothing consumption in ways that are also economical. Our kids wear hand-me-downs when possible, and their clothes get patched and re-patched to extend their life. We also attempt to keep a close eye on what they actually need, and not overstock on clothes that will not be worn. (This can be a real challenge with loving and generous family buying gifts and “necessities”!)
But clothes do not stay in our house forever, we all grow or change sizes, and fashions change. Where possible, I give clothes I no longer need to friends or family. The next step is to put sellable clothes on Poshmark (which is also the first place I look for clothing when I need something new). Our last resort is donating clothing, as donation centers are often overrun with too many textiles. They end up being send to developing countries, destroying local markets with an influx of cheap clothing, or end up in the landfill.
So, I’ve made a commitment to not buy myself any new clothing for the remainder of the year. And after this quarter is over, I’d like to solidly switch to companies who are aware of their environmental impact and working to reduce it. This takes effort - it is much easier to shop from a JCrew sale email or to grab something off the rack at Target. (But browser plug-ins like DoneGood make it a bit easier, and are a good reminder!) Buying from ethically and environmentally aware companies often costs more money. But the items I purchase last longer than any fast-fashion item. And I’m invested in this, not only financially, because doing good for the planet and society reflects my personal values. This is my own quiet clothing revolution. Will you join me?