The Harmful Effects of Consumerism

Ashley Donahue, Social Media Editor

Thousands of teens participate in retail therapy, but how harmful are your impulse buys to the environment? Very, actually. 

While most people who want to make a change in the environment resort to limiting their use of plastic, they fail to recognize one of the most pressing issues: clothing waste. 

We live in a gluttonous society, social status is often defined by how many clothes we buy and how we look. There’s nothing environmentally wrong with buying clothes, it’s where you get them from and how you choose to get rid of them once they aren’t in style anymore or they don’t fit you. 

Each year, people throw away an estimated 14 million tons of clothes, and this number keeps getting higher and higher. 

Instead of throwing these clothes away and wasting perfectly good material, organizations like WornWear help to upcycle this material. When you donate clothes to WornWear, they repair the signs of wear in your old products, and if they’re too far gone, they reuse the fabric for other products. 

The main company that uses this is Patagonia. For the past few years, Patagonia has ensured that their products are long lasting articles. They even offer services to bring your worn out clothing to a Patagonia store, have it patched up, and brought back to you ready for more wear. 

To those who aren’t willingly able to give away clothes that they paid a relatively high amount of money for, Patagonia offers a credit to spend towards their next store purchase for those who choose to trade in. 

Another way to stop the excessive waste of clothing is by participating in thrifting. While some believe that buying from thrift stores takes away from those who cannot afford anything more, this isn’t the case anymore. 

According to Julie Kuenneke from Re/make, thrift stores are becoming overstocked. “Thrift stores are heaving with donations. In fact, some stores overrun with donations during Covid-19  refused to take more items,” she said. 

Along with the clothes themselves polluting the Earth, the water usage of their production is just as harmful. To create a single shirt made out of cotton, it takes approximately 2,700 milliliters of water. That’s equivalent to almost three water bottles per shirt. 

With other stressors on water use such as agriculture and the paint industry, reducing the amount we consume new clothing could directly reduce the amount of water use in clothing production. It’s basic economics: less demand for the products equals less production of them. 

If you aren’t able to get to a thrift store in person, online thrift stores have been made. Apps like Depop, Curtsy, and Poshmark allow you to go thrifting without having to get even off of the couch. 

Next time you decide to take a trip to the mall, consider the environmental baggage that created the items that surround you.