“…when I talk to people about how we don’t really need to keep shopping — we shouldn’t look to shopping for our identity; we just don’t need more stuff, then I have to walk the talk so I’m not buying any more clothes.”
Ever look in your closet, or your garage, or your basement and think, my goodness, how did I accumulate all this STUFF? Well, we sure have. And as much as we try to buy responsibly, to not overdo it, the task can feel difficult seeing as buying has become so easy and so fast. The gratification is as close as your computer keyboard and nearly immediate. But we know that we don’t really need a lot of / most of / at least half of (?) what we buy. Hanging onto less, buying less in the first place, and buying better quality goods, is key. Not just for our own conscious but for our planet. That’s a big part of why we try to offer better options for how to dispose of your used iksplor gear — compost if yourself or send it to us to compost for you or even resell it (learn more here). So for this week’s Snack Break we’re going to focus on what buying less (and better) entails, why it’s important, how celebrities, influencers, startups and big companies are getting in on the gig and how you can, too.
It might not surprise you that we’d start with a look into fast fashion. While we know you’ve already heard how bad fast fashion is for the planet, check out this piece from The Atlantic about ultra fast fashion because, well, it’s even worse. And, yes, you read that right. Ultra fast fashion refers to brands and retailers that spit out new styles at a pace that makes Zara and H&M look a lot more like the tortoise than the hare, which is really saying something for stores that refresh their styles weekly. The costs of all this clothing flying off the racks are pretty extreme: Mountains of discarded clothes that spew so much methane they explode and smolder for months; cotton production that uses water as if it’s a limitless resource; labor practices that severely endanger workers, including children, and especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as employers that pay a pittance; and a fashion industry that accounts for a sizeable portion of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. It’s not a pretty picture. But it is one we should all understand better. The good news? Because there may be some… Apparently secondhand clothing and shopping thrift store aisles “is so hot right now.”
In fact, it is even among fashion bloggers, many of whom are increasingly focusing on how to look good for a lot less. Gone are the days when haute couture ruled the social media / influencer space. In are the days of innovative creators whose blogs, YouTube channels and Instagram accounts feature vintage, thrift store and budget styles, not to mention those that are completely homemade. As one expert quoted in this Wall Street Journal story says, “If you think of ‘budget-conscious’ as being more aware or attuned to social inequality, I think it does fall into that value category. It’s not cool to only post Gucci.”
Now here’s a surprising fact: It’s actually not that hard to just buy nothing (obviously we’re excluding food and necessities like toothpaste and clothing detergent when you run out). But, according to those interviewed for this New York Times story, appreciating and using what you already own, sharing resources, buying second-hand when needed and other tactics really do add up. Moreover, Elizabeth Chai, a graphic designer in Portland, Oregon, who sold, donated or threw out 2,020 items last year, learned that “temptations fade surprisingly fast.”
OK, so now that we know it’s not only feasible, but actually cool, to part with all the excess stuff in our lives, to really make what we already own work for us, we get to the actual doing part of the equation. And that doesn’t always feel so straightforward. But Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, known as The Minimalists, have some ideas. Through their website, books, podcasts, and now a new Netflix documentary called, “Less Is Now,” they help people, as their website explains, focus on more than accumulating possessions: “more time, more peace, more creativity, more experiences, more contribution, more contentment, more freedom. Clearing the clutter frees up the space.” For the CliffsNotes version of their advice about how to reduce what you own in an organized, intentional way, check out this piece, with a quick run-down of some of their tips.
And lest you were to think that the focus of buying less in the first place or only second-hand when needed was the purview of the individual, think again. Large clothing companies and retailers (think Patagonia, REI, Eileen Fisher and more) are getting in on the action, too. According to this story published in Forbes earlier this month, the trend is even catching on enough to generate its own name: “re-commerce.” Why? Because the numbers prove selling second hand products is good business – a $28 billion one, in fact, that’s expected to grow to $64 billion in the next three years. All largely fueled by Gen Z shoppers, twice as many of whom buy used goods than do their Gen X and Boomer counterparts.
Clothing brands are not the only companies bringing the re-commerce ethos into their business. Ikea is doing it too in a program that will offer customers who return used items to their stores vouchers worth about half the product’s original price. While the Covid-19 pandemic has postponed the roll-out of this new recycling program, it is expected to launch some time this year. Although some say the effort to improve the company’s environmental impact is more a token gesture than substantial one, it is, at least, a step in the right direction.
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