It feels as though every time we spot a friend, acquaintance or stranger with an interesting clothing piece, they always announce it’s from the same place: “I got it at Urban!”
Shops such as Urban Outfitters are every anachronistic’s dream: a vast land of everything vintage but at an expensive price and exclusive connotation to it. Urban carries everything everyone and their mother wore in times past, from scrunchies and head scarves to paper bag pants and bell-bottoms.
Almost as a shortcut to the good old-fashioned thrift shop, shoppers graze for that vintage style at double the price. However, this cheap and easy neo-thrifting is unknowingly pushing a narrative that not only impacts consumers but also the planet.
The fashion industry is the world’s second largest polluter in the world, according to sustainyourstyle.org, and its impacts touch almost every facet of our planet. Before even being put on a shelf, waste is created from untreated toxic dyes and chemicals. In most countries where “fast fashion” garments are produced, those chemicals are dumped directly into rivers, harming aquatic life and affecting the lives of millions of people relying on those river banks for water.
As online shopping becomes more and more popular, the problem then stems from its packaging. According to earthday.org, plastic packaging was 42% of all non-fiber plastic produced in 2015, and it also made up 52% of plastics thrown away.
Once bought, every time we wash a synthetic garment about 1,900 individual microfibers are released into the water in your laundry, which then make its way to the ocean, according to sustainyourstyle.org. This then introduces microplastics to the microorganisms and fish in our food chain.
After wearing these clothes, they may then be disposed of in landfills which can take up to 200 years to decompose, with only 15% of our clothing being recycled.
Aside from researching your favorite brand’s policies to see if their practices are ethical, thrift shopping from hand-me-down stores is one of the most ethically responsible choices for the planet in regards to fashion. Thrifting taps into reducing the demand for creating more “fast fashion” clothes of the same style and silhouette, as many brands regularly recreate the same “vintage” pieces from the past. Thrifting also encourages reusing pieces one may have originally bought and no longer has use for: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
Brands know their consumers’ love for a “vintage” style and are feeding on the connotation that thrifting can sometimes be seen as “dirty” or “unflattering,” as these clothes have already been worn by others. By creating identical pieces that are brand-spanking new and double the price, this brings the thrifting movement back two steps, at the expense of the health of the planet and accelerating the problems already stated above.
Although shop windows may be a shiny and groovy haze of old-fangled pieces, thrifting is an authentic way to embrace the styles of the past that is worth having to “earn;” nothing is more fulfilling than a great thrift find. Mother nature is now “in,” and spoon-fed thrifting is “out.”
Thumbnail photo courtesy of Urban Outfitters New York @uonewyork on Instagram
Caroline LeCour is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.