Like many young people today, I struggle with anxiety and depression over the health of our planet. Seeing news about climate change and plastic waste filling our oceans really puts a huge weight on my mental health. I get to feeling like “Why even try? What’s it all even for? The planet is burning anyway.” And I know I am not alone in this feeling.
Lately, I have been trying to find proactive ways to deal with this anxiety.
Rather than dwelling in my sadness and fear over the future, I am trying to find ways to make my own impact on the climate crisis in my everyday life. Things like accessing how much waste I make and how mindful I am about recycling. Or how much of a carbon footprint I am leaving on the environment. Things like that. And during my research on these topics, I learned something that I was actually really surprised about:
In the United States alone, over 11 million tons of clothing goes into our landfills per year!
In 2017, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimated that only 15.2% of the 16.9 million tons of textile waste (fabric, shoes, carpet, etc.) generated in the U.S. was recycled. That is 11.2 million tons of textile waste ending up in landfills! And this is after the clothes have been produced, sold, and worn. Before clothing even makes it to the clothing racks, garment production takes large amounts water, energy, and other natural resources. According to the World Resources Institute, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make just ONE cotton shirt! Not only that, but clothing production uses lots of chemicals and dyes that impact our environment. Then the clothing adds even more to the problem when they make it to the landfill.
When I first found this information, I initially FREAKED out.
I thought about the times I had thrown out a shirt because there was a hole in it, when I could’ve sewn it up like new but was not up top the task. Or when I couldn’t find the match to a sock and tossed it in the garbage instead of finding another use for it. Or when I bought clothing from a company that made their items from cheap synthetic materials that actually left a bad impact on the environment.
I was overridden with guilt and was so mad at myself at first. I was like “Oh my god, I AM THE PROBLEM!” But once I calmed down, I remembered a quote I read about past mistakes:
“You made the best decision you could with the information you had at the time.”
That’s when I decided to started doing something with this information, for the planet AND for my mental health!
I started to journal about this and plan out how I wanted to continue forward with this information rather than continue to let my fear, worry, and guilt control me. And I also did more research on how I could help with the problem. And as I researched more, I discovered the power of buying clothes second-hand.
Okay, so I LOVE shopping at the thrift store!
There is a kind of thrill that comes with thrift store shopping – you can’t plan on finding an exact thing when you go, and very rarely do you find the same item twice. And there is also a bit of a lottery-esque feeling when you find a REALLY cute shirt and it is also in your size. In fact, my mom and I used to make a competition of it. Once in a while, we would go on a thrifting spree for a whole day where we would scour the local thrift stores for our “magic find.” Before we hit the first store, we would declare what our magic find would be, whether it would be a used copy of a Fleetwood Mac record or a pair of blue Levi’s in the size needed. And by the end of the day, whoever found that item was declared the winner.
I still do the “magic find” thrifting competition (only now with my husband), and it’s a fun way to spend a Saturday. So when I started reading about the ways buying from the thrift store can help the planet, I thought “oh, I can definitely roll with this!”
How Buying Second-Hand Helps the Planet… Thus Helping My Mental Health
Buying from and donating to second-hand shops cuts down on waste going into landfills!
If you have an outfit that you are bored of, donate it instead of throwing it away. Someone else can have a turn rocking that look, and you’ll keep that item from going into a landfill for another cycle of use. Not only does it feel good to keep it from polluting the Earth, but it also feels good to donate to a local thrift store that donates the proceeds to charities, too!
Second-hand shopping reduces the demand for plastic packaging!
I had never really thought about this before, but when I learned about this I was like “oh, duh!” Goodwill and other thrift stores don’t have to package the clothing they sell, so that’s less plastic waste going in the trash. And I don’t know about you, but I personally find it so annoying when I buy something over-wrapped in plastic and covered in tons of tags and labels anyway.
Going to your local thrift store cuts down on your environmental footprint!
When you order new clothing online, you are ordering something that is probably far away from where you live. That can be a different state or even a different country… now think of how much gasoline it takes for the truck that is carrying your item to where you live. That’s a lot of emissions going into the atmosphere.
When you buy from a local used clothing store, you aren’t buying an item that had to travel a far distance to get to you. It most likely came from someone who lived within a reasonable distance from where you live. Less gas, less gas emissions, less environmental footprint! Also, newly produced clothing uses a lot of water, and the chemicals used in synthetic dyes are harmful to our planet’s water. So buying used is saving water and its quality. Knowing I am buying the healthier choice for the air we breathe and the water we drink makes me feel good, for sure.
Buying second-hand clothing is a great way to save money that I could use on more environmentally-conscious products.
Buying second-hand isn’t the only change I am making to my lifestyle. I am also making sure to replace my toiletries with compostable materials so that they don’t take up so much space on the planet for so long. The downside to that is buying a bamboo toothbrush can be a little more expensive than buying the typical plastic toothbrush. And the same goes for products that come in eco-friendly packaging, especially from the grocery store. But the money I save by buying used clothing for cheaper is money I can be using to purchase from companies dedicated to cutting down waste, or money I could be donating to a local charity that is working to save the environment.
Oh man, reminds me of one of my FAVORITE songs!
So if you also deal with mental health challenges because things like climate change and waste, I hope this blog inspired you to visit your local Goodwill for your next addition to your wardrobe. And if you are in need of a montage song for your next thrift store shopping spree, I got you covered! Just click the video below 😎
Want to be a guest writer for our blog?
Want to join our community of guest bloggers? Have a story you want to share with others like you? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out this form so we can get you started!