Thursday, April 2, 2015
Why I Haven't Bought New Clothes in More Than a Year
Yes, that's right. The last time I bought anything new was in December of 2013. Now, to many people that might sound totally crazy, and even boring and torturous. Yeah, I get it, clothes shopping is fun! I agree. However, there are a myriad of reasons to not buy new clothes and that's what I'm going to talk about today.
Here are my five golden rules of why not to buy new clothes:
1. Buying new clothes is unsustainable.
When you buy a new piece of clothing, you are creating a demand. You are sending a message with your power as a consumer that more new clothes must be made, because people want and are going to buy new clothes. This means that all kinds of resources are going into the creation of new clothes. If you buy a new cotton t-shirt, think for a second about how that cotton t-shirt was made. The cotton was grown somewhere, probably through the use of unsustainable farming practices that incorporated heavy use of pesticides and fossil fuels in their upkeep, as well as many gallons of water to keep the plants alive and producing. Then, more fossil fuels and other energy resources were used the harvest and ship the cotton, to a place where it could be manufactured into fabric, using more fossil fuels. After that, it's shipped somewhere else to be made into a specific t-shirt, and then it's shipped to a store, where you will find it. So all that energy and resource usage is not only unsustainable, it also creates pollution, pesticide drift, and water shortages. All to make a t-shirt. Plus, we must consider the quality of the t-shirt. Many new clothes sold today are very poor quality and fall apart easily, for two reasons. Not only is it cheaper to make poorly-made clothing, but it also encourages you to come back and buy a new t-shirt to replace the old one that fell apart. This creates even more of a demand for new, unsustainably produced clothing.
2. Buying new clothes is unethical.
While we're exploring all the resources, like water and fossil fuels, that go into the production of a cotton t-shirt, we can also look at the people exploited along the way. Were the people working the cotton fields paid a living wage? How about the people who wove the cotton into fabric? Or the people who made the fabric into a t-shirt? Are their jobs easy? Are their shifts manageable and are their hours fair? Depending on where you buy your clothes, the answer to many of these questions is probably going to be a resounding NO. When consumers buy new clothes, they perpetuate the demand for people to fill these unjust jobs. These people are unfairly employed and exploited, and their status is ensured with every new t-shirt we buy. To be fair, there are more companies who do not exploit their workers nowadays than there used to be, but that does little to mitigate the other four reasons for not buying new clothes.
3. Buying new clothes is unaffordable.
Yes, I am in college, and so I have less money than some. However, even if I had money to spare, why would I spend it on new clothes when I could do better things like buying organic food or donating it or giving it away? Buying new clothes is a cost that many budgets can't accommodate when one is trying to focus on a healthy lifestyle.
4. Buying new clothes is unnecessary.
There are SO MANY ways to get clothing besides buying it new. I will delve into these methods in an upcoming post, but just know for now that there is an abundance of alternatives to shopping at the mall. Plus, do you really need new clothes? I recently heard about something called the 80/20 rule, which implies that we wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time. The rest just kind of hangs out, useless. Though we are encouraged to buy, buy, buy, it is wise to question for a moment if you actually need new clothes. Chances are, the answer is no.
5. Buying new clothes is unoriginal.
If you buy clothes from the mall you are at a very high risk of having exactly the same shirt as someone else. Clothes obtained from other sources tend to be slightly more difficult to find copies of and are therefore more unique and exciting! They lend new originality to your personal style.
So, those are my top five reasons not to buy new clothes! I could come up with more, but those are definitely the most important.
I do want to acknowledge that while this post emphasizes individual actions and blames individual consumers for the environmental and social justice issues I mentioned, I do understand that a lot of larger systemic forces are at play here as well. These forces need to be taken down, both through individual action, such as refusing to purchase new clothes, and collective actions, like protests, boycotts, and massive outreach and educational efforts. I am not trying to blame any individual for the social and environmental injustices caused by today's clothing industry. My only goal with this article is educate and get the word out so that more people may become aware of the issue.
In an upcoming post, I will show you all how I avoid buying new clothes! I hope that this post has helped some of you and given you some food for thought. If you have any questions or want to further discuss what I've written here, please feel free to email me!
photos: 1, 2