This is a guest post from Stephanie Greene (who certainly lives up to her last name), a junior at Walter Payton College Prep in Chicago, the writer of the blog All Worn Out and an ACE Action Team member.
I have a confession: I am a shopaholic. I buy clothes, shoes, bracelets, necklaces, and everything else under the sun. I buy all of that, and then buy some more. But, you see, I don’t get the usual buyer’s remorse. Ya know the one where you buy something super expensive then feel like you just made a huge mistake? Yeah, I’m not feeling that way. Instead, I feel like I have done everyone on this great, big planet a disservice.
However, I realized that I wasn’t the only one making decisions without weighing the impacts. College freshman Claritza says that after volunteering for Green Heart she “got really into recycled accessories and that type of cool authentic thing.” Even with the knowledge gained from volunteering, she says, “I don’t think much about the final impact.” So, here are the facts:
1) It takes over 700 gallons of water to make one t-shirt.
2) Every American throws away more than 68 pounds of clothing and other textiles adding up to a collective total of 11.1 million tons of textile waste.
3) Approximately 17 to 20 percent of industrial water pollution can be attributed to the dyeing and treating of garments.
These are just three of many statistics supporting the notion of conscious consumerism. High school teacher, Brandon, points out that “we are now in a resurgence of caring about ourselves a bit more.” Being conscious is not just reserved for the way that we view food, but extends to the way we dress. There are even stylistic benefits to fashion going green; Brandon went on to say that “we can avoid absorbing unneeded pesticides and chemicals that make an outfit look crisp and sharp. Besides, a deliberately messy look is always a bit more thoughtful.” And I could not agree more.
Even as teenagers there are things we can do to lessen our aesthetic impact on the earth. And they are all crazy easy to do!
1. Shop at thrift stores. So, we all like to be hip, and thrifting is hip. Consider buying your “new” pair of shorts or sun dress from a thrift store. And bonus: thrift stores are super cheap. For high school students that are balling on a budget, this is a biggie. I got a rain 2 rain coats, a shirt, a pair of shorts, and a book for seven dollars. Seven dollars! You can’t beat that deal with a stick. Consider stopping by your local Salvation Army or resale shop, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the things you find.
2. Have a clothes swap with friends. Instead of spending your Friday nights running up your parents’ credit card bills, invite friends over for a little shindig. Tell them to bring clothes they no longer want and to be ready to barter. Trade shirts for skirts, and jeans for jean jackets. One person’s trash (or unwanted clothes in this case) is another person’s treasure (or new outfit). Always check with friends before giving away old clothes, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind stealing your swag.
3. Recycle denim. We’ve all loved a pair of jeans so much that we wore them every day. And, oh so sadly, we eventually wore a hole right through them. No fear! Those jeans can still be put to use. The “From Blue to Green” initiative turns denim into housing insulation. Check it out before you add to those 11.1 million tons of waste.
4. Make something! Take that old t-shirt, cut it up and make a bracelet, a purse, anything. We recently saw Chicago high schools students debut their own eco-friendly wear at Project Greenway. Participant Michelle says that “the coolest part of the event was honestly just seeing what other students had created. Some of the outfits were so wearable; I wanted to add them to my own wardrobe.” See! This stuff is cool.
I could seriously go on and on and on and on and on and on… (Ha, I kid.) …about the benefits of fashion going green. But, in short, it’s simply the right thing to do. Michelle says, “If a bunch of high school students can do it, everyone can.” Truer words have never been spoken. We high school students are in the perfect position to spear head the transition to living totally eco-friendly lives. And we should. But, I still have this little problem: I’m a shopaholic. Wait, scratch that. I’m an eco-friendly shopaholic.
Michelle rocks a dress embellished with recycled paper materials.
Or, watch this video:
“What’s the Environmental Impact of a T-Shirt?” - Ecouterre Weekly, June 7, 2012