As I walked through Clover Flat Landfill, the stench hit me like a truck.
Dirty red, yellow, and blue shirts and jeans were piled high among the crushed plastic and trash that lay on the compressed dirt.
I love fashion and have always enjoyed shopping for clothes during the holiday season. My perspective changed when I completed a research paper on the fast fashion industry for my AP English Language class at St. Helena High School.
Fast fashion is defined as “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends” (Oxford Dictionaries). Through my research, I learned fashion “is the second most polluting industry on Earth, right behind oil” (Booth Moore) and fast fashion, specifically, plays a role in affecting our Earth’s water pollution, air contamination, and waste buildup: “The average American discards 82 pounds of textile waste a year” (The True Cost).
Many Americans are becoming aware of this global environmental problem and are opting to thrift (secondhand) and buy clothes from ethical brands. Clothes sit in landfills for more than 200 years because most are not biodegradable. In order to hold multinational retailers accountable for the environmental destruction wrought by discarded clothes, consumers are starting to pay attention to the garment’s life cycle.
I spent the morning with the manager of the Clover Flat Landfill to do a fashion photoshoot highlighting thrifted clothing in order to illustrate that there can be beauty in repurposed clothes and to inspire others to consider the alternative to buying new garments that will eventually end up in a landfill.
As we head into the holiday season, as consumers, we can become more aware and mindful about where our clothes come from and who makes the garments we wear on a daily basis.
If you are interested in shopping at stores focused on sustainable clothing, here are a few ideas to consider: When shopping local, Lolo’s and Sportago in St. Helena and Community Projects, Inc. and Goodwill in Napa.
If you are looking to shop online, check out Everlane, Lucy and Yak, ThredUp, Verloop, Tradesy, Vestiaire Collective, and The RealReal.
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Daphne Steele is a senior at St. Helena High School.