Because We Can’t Give the Planet to Goodwill…

I know you. You are a good person. You take mindful steps to make a difference in the world around you. You cherish your family, love your friends … and every day, without knowing it, you make decisions that are destroying our planet.

I know this — because I was doing it, too. I used to brag about a big discount store being my favorite place in the universe. When I discovered a particular online store with super-cheap, trendy clothes, I thought I had found fashion heaven on earth.

Then one day, while researching ideas for my then upcycled fashion brand Monarch Couture, I stumbled upon the concept of “eco-fashion vs. fast-fashion.” I quickly realized the trend-driven image gluttony so many of us are involved in is rapidly ruining our world.

I could spew facts and figures at you — but fast-fashion environmental fallout is something that can easily be researched online. Just a little food for thought: those super-soft leggings you love have been washed hundreds of times in chemical-filled water. Those jeans you got for a steal were made with pesticide-laden cotton that is giving farmers in America brain tumors and leaving villages in underdeveloped countries with a disproportionate number of mentally and physically deformed children. That blouse you got on sale for $5 was sewn in a dirty factory by a woman who makes $10 a month.

We are surrounded with products that have a negative impact on the environment, and to me, fashion is the worst offender because the damage done is for vanity. The question you have to ask yourself is this: “Is it worth it?” To me, the answer is clear: We have enough. You and I have enough stuff. Our families and friends live comfortably for the next 100 years without ever needing to buy anything new.

When I started my journey on 365daysofthrift.com about a year and a half ago, I wondered what I was getting myself into. But it turned out to be one of my best ideas ever. I look better, my conscience is clearer, and I actually have a more beautiful wardrobe than I have ever had — filled with high quality, well-made clothing.

If it’s good enough to donate to Goodwill or another thrift store, it’s usually good enough to last a long time. I’ve extended my thrifting far past clothing: I’ve thrifted all of my bedding, a beautiful $15 couch, silverware, mugs, dishes, pots, pans, even my favorite straightening iron and hair curler are thrifted. Thrifting is my new revolution. It’s one of the most doable and fun ways to reduce your impact on the environment. You don’t need new fashion and decor. You just don’t. Your vanity is simply not worth the negative environmental impact.

Being an environmentalist doesn’t mean you have to protest in front of an oil company and condemn big business while reposting tear-jerking YouTube videos. It means you are mindful of the products you consume and the waste you create.

There are so many small steps you can take: refill plastic water bottles, bring your own mug to the coffee shop, buy used clothing or support eco-fashion brands, bring your own bag to the supermarket, clean your house with vinegar instead of some cheap, creepy toxin-filled cleaner. You can do it. And you can do so much more.

Abundance doesn’t have to come with a social-environmental cost; you can have an abundant, fulfilling life that does not pollute the environment or exploit labor. The ethical thing to do is to change your habits. Help raise awareness about creating a healthy environment for yourself and others. This is something we all need to do more of.

You can donate your shoes when they no longer fit your mood (and you should), but we can’t give the planet to Goodwill. We’ve got to make it last.

Elisabeth Donaldson is a freelance stylist, artist and actress. Check out her blog:

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