Buy, Wear, Trash, Repeat

Ashley Bollinger, Staff Reporter

Adolescent clothing trends change in the blink of an eye – and companies who manufacture the newest style of jeans or sneakers have no trouble keeping up. The cyclical yet ever-evolving clothing industry is in a state of constant turnover – producing more clothing for lower prices at the expense of quality and ethics, racking in more and more money. This opportunistic practice is called fast fashion.

According to an article on, over 100 billion items of clothing are produced each year. Not only is there an enormous excess of clothing, the majority of those clothes, once discarded, end up in landfills. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that around 81% of discarded clothing is either incinerated or ends up in landfills. A mere 14% is recycled, and the remaining 5% is transported overseas. Additionally, the EPA relates that “Landfills received 11.3 million tons of MSW textiles in 2018. This was 7.7 percent of all MSW landfilled.” Clothing waste contributes to pollution, as well as climate change. McKinsey Sustainability shares that 1 kilogram of fabric produces approximately 23 kilograms of greenhouse gases (on average).

The solution to this problem is relatively intuitive and doesn’t require a grand scheme. Simply shop sustainably and ethically. Yet that’s easier said than done. For some, going shopping in itself is an arduous task – one that they’d rather not pair with research. Convenience often drives the decisions of consumers. But shopping ethically and sustainably is not difficult. One easy way to help: shop second-hand. This breaks the cycle and reduces clothing waste. You can also minimize your wardrobe, sell/donate your clothes rather than throwing them out, or boycott unethical companies and clothing brands, among other things.

There is no blameless party within this issue. The consumer is not exonerated at the hand of corporations, and vice versa. Both, either ignorantly or arrogantly, contribute to the fast fashion machine. Companies may produce the clothing, but the general public enables them by consuming it. That is why both must be a part of the solution.

As high schoolers, we exist in an environment where our outfits take priority over external issues. Trends influence social standards and those standards dictate the clothes we wear. On top of that, the media excessively glorifies purchasing new clothes, perpetuating wasteful and lavish lifestyles. It’s an endless routine of buying, wearing, and throwing away. Trends change and the cycle repeats. Many are under the pretenses that this problem doesn’t apply to them. How does buying a shirt or throwing out an old jacket mean anything in the long run? But our actions have consequences. Shopping habits hold more power than you may realize. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution.