July 11, 2019
Did You Know That Buying Vintage Clothing is Eco-Friendly?
Go sustainable and stay stylish by shopping secondhand
Photo courtesy of @lelia_milaya/Twenty20
By Shelby Deering
writer for The Natural
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a great love for flea markets and vintage pieces with a history. I frequently purchase bygone treasures for my home and wear antique jewelry, and recently, I’ve begun weaving vintage clothing into my wardrobe as well. I enjoy the uniqueness and personality of these one-of-a-kind pieces, and I’ve come to realize that buying vintage is an environmentally-friendly choice as well.
According to Verena Erin Polowy, conscious living YouTube Creator and Blogger at My Green Closet, purchasing vintage and secondhand clothing is very sustainable. “The fashion supply chain is quite complex, and unfortunately, to make cheap, fast fashion, a lot of costs have to be cut throughout production,” she shares, which can come at the expense of the environment.
Verena explains that environmental impact starts with the fibers of a garment. She cites specific materials, saying, “Some examples include cotton which requires a lot of water and pesticides to grow and synthetics derived from petroleum which is inherently unsustainable. Then there can be issues with toxic dyes and chemicals.”
She also shares that when the clothing gets to the consumer, “a lot of energy is used for washing and drying, and if the garments are synthetic, they’re losing microfibers which are causing microplastic pollution issues in our oceans and rivers.”
Then you have to consider textile waste, which Verena says is a big problem. She says, “The average American throws out about 81 pounds of clothing and textiles each year, 95% of which can actually be recycled.”
If you’d like to start building a sustainably-minded wardrobe through buying vintage and secondhand, Verena is here to lay out the reasons why it’s an effective way to go green along with her expert shopping tips.
Vintage clothes don’t require new resources or energy
“Since the clothes already exist, it means no new resources and energy have to be used to create the garments,” Verena points out. To work toward a wardrobe that reduces these resources, she says that buying vintage and secondhand will naturally take a bit more time than quickly buying clothing from a traditional store. She notes, “Have patience. Shopping vintage and secondhand is different than going into a conventional fashion store. Finding the gems can take time.”
They tend to be higher-quality, which means they’ll last longer
Through her own wardrobe staples, Verena has witnessed firsthand that vintage clothing is generally better made and higher-quality. That translates to clothing you can enjoy for years to come which also replaces any of the fast fashion in your closet.
Understandably, since vintage clothing has been around the block, you will need to thoroughly check everything over before you buy. Verena advises, “If you find something you like, do a quick inspection for stains, holes, or signs of poor quality. In particular, look at the front and armpits for stains. It’s good to take a look at the seams inside and make sure they look sturdy and there aren’t broken or have loose threads. I also like to check if there’s any bad pilling in the armpits, thighs, and seat.”
You’ll save something from going to the landfill
If clothing isn’t donated or purchased secondhand, its eventual destiny lies in a landfill. To avoid this outcome, Verena recommends thrift stores, secondhand shops, and flea markets so you can buy up the clothes before they head to the landfill, which can put more strain on the environment. These stores brim with vintage finds. Verena says, “I recommend having an idea of what you’re looking for because depending on the store, there can be a lot to look at and having a plan will keep you focused.”
You’ll support sustainable fashion
Verena says, “Shopping secondhand means you’re helping to create demand for and supporting recycling and a more circular approach to fashion.” If everyone were to buy vintage clothing, that would mean those bygone pieces would always have a home instead of becoming waste for landfills.
She adds that she loves the stories that these garments carry, something that makes shopping for clothes a lot more exciting. Verena says, “The thing I love most about vintage clothing is having something so unique that also has a story and history. Even if I don’t know where the piece came from, I like to imagine the life the garment has had.”
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