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Out of Fashion: How to Ditch Fast Fashion

Americans throw away 14 million tons of clothing annually. That is nearly double what it was 20 years ago. The increase can be partly attributed to the rise of fast fashion, which replicates and mass produces high-fashion designs and trends at low costs and with low-quality materials. The fashion industry is responsible for nearly 10% of global carbon emissions annually and is the second largest polluter of water. And the manufacture of fast fashion pieces, from synthetic fiber production to garment dyeing, has even more detrimental effects on the environment. Not to mention the ethical concerns surrounding fast fashion brands’ sources of labor, many of which have been exposed for extremely low wages and harsh working conditions. The novelty, cost, and accessibility of fast fashion are attractive to many. However, the impact the industry has on our planet and workers cannot be overstated. Luckily, there are other options.  


Research shows that extending the lifespan of a piece of clothing by just three months would lead to a 5 to 10 percent reduction in each item’s carbon, water, and waste footprints. Whether buying new or purging clothes you no longer want, reuse and donation are better options 

Thrifting options in the Evanston area include: 

On campus, NU Thrift Store provides another option in the form of pop-up thrift stores at the end of each quarter. Started in the spring of 2019 to fulfill the need for sustainable, low-cost fashion for first-generation, low-income students and serve as a source for recycling textiles, NU Thrift Store is opening up again for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Catch NU Thrift Store’s collaboration with Mayfest and STITCH for Mayfit on Friday, May 21st, from 2PM-5PM CT at Norris South Lawn. 

Aside from shopping at physical stores, other resources include online secondhand stores including: 

If you’re feeling crafty, upcycling and repairing your clothes is another great way to extend the life of your garments. 


The best way to cut down on your impact on the environment is always to consume less. Plan out your wardrobe and buy fewer pieces that pair well together. If you are able to do so, purchase clothing that may be a little more expensive, but will last longer.  

Avoid synthetic fibers, like nylon and acrylic, and opt for natural fibers. Synthetic fibers are typically made from fossil fuels and contain plastic, which is non-biodegradable. These synthetic fibers are also making their way into the ocean and our water supply simply by being washed, contributing to the microplastic pollution that is affecting marine wildlife. An estimated 73% of the fish caught at mid-ocean depths in the Northwest Atlantic had microplastics in their stomachs, but fish are not the only ones ingesting microplastic fibers. A study found that the average person ingests over 5,800 particles of synthetic debris a year. Over 99% of those particles are plastic fibers. Make sure to do your research before you buy. This directory is one source for understanding clothing brands affordability, sustainability practices, and ethicality.