Many of us by now are probably aware of the detrimental impacts fast fashion has on our planet and the people who live on it. In the US alone, 85% of discarded clothing is burned or ends up in a landfill. National Secondhand Wardrobe Day brings awareness to one of the best ways we can fight back against the negative impacts of the fashion industry — promoting a secondhand wardrobe and circular fashion.
So what even is circular fashion?
In our current system, clothing has a linear life cycle. Resources like cotton and petroleum are extracted from the Earth to make products and when we are done with those products, they are either thrown away or go to landfill. The reality is, there truly is no “away”. The consequences of fast fashion are largely out of sight and out of mind because a huge portion of clothing ends up being exported from the U.S. Roughly 700,000 tons of clothing are exported annually flooding the economies and land of the global South, in areas like Ghana, Chile, Kenya and Tanzania.
No matter what we do to try to be sustainable shoppers, we’re always going to have items in our wardrobe that don’t fit, aren’t our style anymore, or just never make it out of the closet. So what are we supposed to do with these giant trash bags of clothes? One option is to support a circular fashion model. A world where fashion is circular, not linear, means once we are done using an item of clothing we can put that item back into the system for someone else to buy, reuse, remake, or rewear — while working toward infrastructure where clothing can be efficiently recycled and transformed into new products.
1. The circular economy can help reduce our carbon footprint
Physical waste aside, many of the fashion industry’s worst impacts are invisible. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions — more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Creating and buying brand new clothing items can be extremely carbon intensive. The emissions from producing just one pair of blue jeans emits 75 pounds of carbon dioxide.
On the bright side, circular models could enable the industry to cut around 315 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (McKinsey). In our current throwaway fashion culture, the average consumer discards clothes after only 7 or 8 wears. The good news is, extending the life of clothes by just an extra nine months reduces its carbon, water, and waste footprint by around 20–30% each, and cuts the cost in resources used to supply, clean and get rid of clothing by 20% (WRAP).
2. You’re probably already participating in the circular economy
Circular fashion sounds intimidating, but odds are you’re already engaging in the circular economy. 74% of consumers have shopped or are open to shopping secondhand apparel. Did you know that last year 57% of people resold their clothes? Reselling, donating and swapping clothes with friends and family are awesome ways to give your clothing a second life (yes, wearing your sister’s hand-me-downs is sustainable).
On the flip side, buying secondhand from thrift stores, thrifting apps, small business, and shopping our own Wolven Pre-Loved all fit the bill. Make sure you keep an eye out because a special vintage drop is coming to Pre-Loved during Secondhand September. Secondhand September is the perfect opportunity for a closet refresh. Clear out any items that no longer brighten your day and start making your fall secondhand manifestation Pinterest board. Also keep in mind that the most sustainable piece of clothing is the clothing you already own. Find creative ways to style your current wardrobe — or take a stab at hemming, altering, or remaking some clothes you already have.
3. Wolven is promoting circular fashion through Wolven Pre-Loved
Did you know that you can sell your Wolvens on Wolven Pre-Loved? Give your Wolven pieces a second chance at love — all it takes is snapping a few photos and answering a few questions. After your piece sells, we’ll email you your prepaid shipping label and you can choose to receive store credit or cash back.
You can shop and sell Wolven Pre-Loved and trust that you can easily sell your clothes and shop verified Wolven — thanks to our friends at Treet who help power our resale program. You can give your items a second home, save a couple bucks, and you might even find some unique limited edition pieces or prints that are no longer available (vintage Wolven’s? Yes please).
Wolven Pre-Loved extends the life of each item by about 2 years – reducing its combined carbon, waste, and water footprint by 82%. That’s why this month in honor of National Secondhand Wardrobe Day (and our planet) we have a special opportunity — from now until the end of September, you will receive 150% in store credit when your listed item sells on Wolven Pre-Loved. So upload your pre-loved Wolven items and pick up that vintage set we know you’ve been eyeing. A special treat from us to you to encourage you to get involved in the circular economy.
Now that you understand circular fashion a little more, you’re ready to take part in building a more sustainable future (and looking cute while doing it).
Lili Passalacqua is a recent college graduate who loves fashion and advocates for sustainability. Lili believes that effectively communicating science and environmental issues is one of the best ways we can make change as a society.