What Happens To Used Clothing?
And What Can You Do About It?
If you live in the global north, you may be thinking it's time to spring clean. We hear you. There's something about cleaning and sorting that is good for the soul.
In fact, according to science, spring cleaning can even have some great benefits for our emotional health such as lowering your stress levels by decluttering, improving our focus and helping us feel more peaceful.
Those benefits sound great, right? Who doesn't want to feel all that good stuff?
So, if it provides so many benefits for those of us who are doing the decluttering, is there a way for it to actually benefit everyone?
In short, the answer is yes, there is a way that what's good for us can actually be helpful for the bigger picture.
But, like most things in life, it's not easy to know how to do it. Where do you start? Your life is busy, your time is limited, and your wallet is not bottomless.
So let's get real about what's going on, who's paying the real cost, and what we can do about it.
But before we get started, please remember this: we know that the first step can feel like the most difficult one to take. That first step is being honest with ourselves about what's going on.
Once we know, we can't un-know. However, we think that's a good thing because that's where we start to think about what we can do about it.
Here's three steps we suggest to understand and help create the change we all know we want.
1. Watch and Learn about "Waste Colonialism"
We are big fans of the work of the Changing Markets Foundation. Their work is focused on supporting NGO's around the world that are doing the work of creating sustainable change. They help to amplify that change and give people like you and me access to understanding it and how we can support it.
In short, they are helping to scale it up by leveraging the power of markets and demanding changes.
One of those campaigns is called Trashion. In this campaign, they highlight what "waste colonialism" is and how it is affecting the world's most vulnerable.
Although this video is in Kenya, this same scenario in the Dominican Republic and Haiti is what inspired the launch of Brave Soles.
2. Ask Yourself: Do you know where these clothes are going?
The basic reason behind this is simple: you deserve to know. Your choices matter because you matter.
You are a valuable part of the world we all share and your connection to your choices help to create our future.
Sometimes big changes happen in the subtleties of how we think. It's true that one great choice can lead to another. But, even more than that, one great choice being shared with others is how change happens on a bigger scale.
We may not be able to lock up the doors of the factories that are creating so much damage (yet) but we can start by drawing a line and deciding that we are going to stop perpetuating a problem.
- Before you dump those clothes in a parking lot bin, find out what they actually do with those clothes. I.E. Do they simply collect them and "sell" them further up the food chain OR do they have a plan for where those clothes go?
- Can these clothes be traded or consigned? This is a fantastic circular business model that keeps resources local, cuts down on carbon from travel, and ensures that it will actually be loved and valued
- Stop buying crap. Seriously. Just stop. Life's too short to have items in your closet you don't love and make memories with together.
- Clothing swaps are not only good for the planet, they are also great for our social lives. A great glass of wine and a room full of clothes to be loved and shared is a great way to connect and share stories.
3. Take a FANTASTIC free course from Fashion Takes Action
Fashion Takes Action is a Canadian based NGO that exists to help us all take back the story around what we wear and own. They are passionate about helping the next generation understand how to write the future they want, and helping us all understand what to do right now.
Christal recently introduced their founder, Kelly Drennan, on her podcast, I Can Do Something About This.
Recently, FTA. has partnered up with RCGD Global and created a fantastic free course called Fashion Impacts 101 and we highly recommend it for it's simplicity and honest approach to helping us all understand how we are not powerless. Rather, we are far more powerful than we often give ourselves credit for.
Choose to be powerful. Always.