What’s in Your Closet?- Zero Waste Fashion

    Fashion retailers have created an unsustainable model of increasingly cheaper and cheaper (price and quality) clothing lines that is increasing rather than decreasing waste.

    The consumers are sold the idea of “fast fashion”, clothes made to only be worn a few times before they go out of fashion and need to be replaced by the next round of trends. They are made from inexpensive materials that might not last more than one season before wearing out.

    Consider also that the average consumer now buys 60% more clothing than they did 15 years ago, and we have a considerable waste problem.

    Fashion Waste

    In the US, 85% of textiles that are produced are thrown away and end up in landfills or incinerated. 

    Waste from the Fashion Industry can be broken down into two categories: Pre-consumer waste and Post-consumer waste.

    Pre-consumer waste is waste produced during the manufacture and shipment of the textiles. It would include leftover fabric pieces, chemicals from dyes, or unsold goods.

    Post-consumer waste is waste created when people no longer want or need the clothes they have purchased. It included clothing that no longer fits, has worn out, torn or broken, or has gone out of fashion. 

    Recycling Textiles

    The 6Rs of Zero Waste are important to consider when cleaning out your closet or making a new clothing purchase.

    Refuse– check the label, refuse to buy anything that may end it’s life in a landfill

    Reduce– only buy what you need 

    Reuse– wear clothing for more than one season, resell items in good condition, or donate to charitable organizations- hand-me downs are great for kids!

    Recycle– be aware of what you clothing is made from and buy fabrics that can be recycled

    Rot– Clothing made from 100% natural fibers like cotton, wool, or silk can be put into your compost bin to biodegrade.

    Repair- get out that sewing kit and mend, mend, mend!

    The two most common things that people do with their clothes at the end of their usefulness, is to throw them in the trash, or gather them up and donate them to a charity.

    It sounds great, but unfortunately those charities can not use most of what is given to them. The items are either in not good enough condition to use, inappropriate for their needs, or they do not have the manpower to organize and distribute it all. So, most of those donations end up in the trash. 

    So, before packing up your used clothes and dropping them in a bin, do a little research into the charity to make sure that what you are not simply passing your trash along to them.

    There is a market for reselling clothing and other accessories on-line, but that is only for higher end and specialty items that are still in good condition.

    Recycling of textiles is also a challenge. Sorting by fabrics is labor intensive and requires skill and a knowledge of fabrics. A single garment can be made from more than one type of fabric as well as other components like zippers and buttons that need to be separated before recycling.

    Composition of Textiles

    It is important to understand what your clothing and other textiles are made from and how they are produced.

    Most of our clothes are made from plastics and other synthetic fibers. 

    Common fibers like Polyester, Nylon, and Acrylic are made from crude oil, which means that they can not be recycled or composted. These fibers are used in most of our clothing, making over 60% of it not recyclable. 

    And since they are made from crude oil, there is also environmental damage done in their pre-consumer production. Textile production is responsible for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and 20% of global waste water.

    Zero Waste Fashion

    There are some in the Fashion Industry who are starting to take a turn and acknowledge all the waste that is created by fast and cheap fashion, and trying to keep up with yearly and seasonal trends. 

    They are choosing fabrics that have less of an environmental impact during production, like organic cotton or hemp.

    They are improving their pattern cutting to use more of the bulk fabrics.

    They are using dyes and printing methods that use less resources and are not harmful to the environment.

    They are utilizing upcycling, turning unused garments into something new, for any unsold merchandise.

    Check out these brands for your next clothing purchase:


    Christy Dawn


    Nathalia JMag

    Swedish Stockings

    Zero Waste Daniel

    Study NY

    Theo the Label


    Armed Angels

    Green Market Vintage

    Beyond Retro

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