Fashion has become disposable. The clothing industry has an ever-increasing environmental footprint as a result. Popular discount stores and clothing retailers sell clothes that are cheap and are not meant to last, and people are encouraged to buy all new wardrobes for each season. This “fast fashion” trend has caused serious threats to our environment, from wasteful clothing production to the use of resources and the strain on our landfills.

Clothing takes a lot to produce.

Clothing takes many resources to produce and distribute. Synthetic clothing and vinyl, in particular, use oil byproducts, increasing our dependence on fossil fuels. Leather production involves the use of strong and toxic chemicals.

All forms of clothing manufacture use great amounts of electricity. Many of the clothes we wear are shipped from overseas, causing another increase in the use of fossil fuels.

Greenpeace has found that sales of clothing have almost doubled since 2002, with $1.8 trillion worth of production in 2015. On average, people are buying 60% more clothing as 15 years ago, but they are only keeping their clothes half as long.

Up to ten percent of the waste in landfills is made up of rubber, leather, and textiles. Many people are not aware that it takes months or years for clothing items to decompose in landfills. It can take a pair of leather shoes up to 40 years to decompose. Nylon fabric can also take up to 40 years.

What are the solutions?

How can we help to solve this acute environmental problem? One of the easiest ways is through clothes donation. Clothes donation helps your closet and it helps the community as well. Donating clothes to a local charity not only reduces waste, it provides income for charitable groups in your community. Buying clothes second hand or at thrift shops is a smart environmental move and prevents you from buying too many new clothes.

Clothes donation enables you to clean out your closet while keeping your impact on the landfill as low as possible. Other shoppers may be excited to pick up your old clothes, incorporating them into new looks for themselves.

Together with clothes donation, clothes recycling is also a smart way to reduce waste. When thrift stores can’t use clothing or if it becomes too worn, it is sometimes recycled into new fabric. According to the EPA, out of 16 million tons of discarded clothing, 2.62 million tons were recycled.

What about recycling clothes?

Clothes recycling is a growing industry and only recycles a portion of the clothing discarded today, but advances are being made. Some kinds of cloth, such as polar fleece, can be made from recycled materials like water bottles. This helps to reduce the waste stream in another way.

Besides clothes recycling and clothes donation, there are other ways we can reduce the amount of clothing waste we produce each year. Purchasing high-quality clothing is a good start. If your clothes and shoes are meant to last, you will not have to replace it as often.

Buying organic clothing made of natural materials is another important component of reducing the environmental footprint of your clothing since organic fabrics break down much easier in a landfill than synthetics.

Another great way to reduce clothing waste is to repurpose clothes you already own. When you repurpose clothes from each season, you can create new looks with the clothes already in your closet. Try to buy clothing that works for a number of seasons, and add layers and accessories to make the look work at any time of year.

“Shop your closet” after you examine the newest clothing trends for the season. Even if you are interested in keeping your look fresh and up to date, you will be able to reuse pieces from previous seasons. If you have a favorite spring dress, try wearing it with a blazer in cooler weather or wearing leggings underneath for a more casual appearance.

Get the most out of your clothes.

Spend time taking care of your clothes. Instead of throwing a piece of clothing away when it has a rip or a stain, do your best to fix it. It doesn’t take much skill with a needle to replace a button or mend torn clothing. The more pieces you repair, the less you will have to buy. Clothes recycling in this way lessens your impact on the environment.

Reducing your personal fashion footprint on the environment doesn’t need to be complicated. Donate your excess clothes to local charitable organizations. When these clothes can no longer be used, they will enter clothes recycling programs.

Take care of the clothing you already own. When you want to change up your look, simply shop from your own closet. When you do buy new clothes, do it with an eye toward wearing an item in more than one season.

When you follow these simple environmental tips, you will feel better about your impact on the environment, and you will help the world reduce its dependence on “fast fashion.”