We desperately need to stop treating the fashion industry like fast food.

Alternatives to our addiction to fast fashion.

The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world behind oil.

Of the world’s total carbon footprint, the apparel industry contributes to 10% of that, and to put that into perspective, the aviation industry only contributes 2%.

I highly recommend the documentary The True Cost to anyone reading this who hasn’t had the chance yet. It will help you understand the larger picture and system at play here. The fashion industry is a complex beast.

H&M in a recent interview didn’t even know its clothes were being made in a Cambodian factory.

So what do we buy if we need new clothes?

We need to start by being less passive about our clothing decisions. The same way we discern at a grocery store if a vegetable is organic or how far away it was grown, we need to be the same way about our clothes.

Our clothes still need to be grown.

We need to support organic growers, local manufacturers and designers.

Small companies like Artifact Textiles are trying to reconnect designers, farmers and mills . They’re connecting designers with fiber farmers around New York’s Hudson Valley to the support the burgeoning local manufacturing movement.

Larger companies like Eileen Fisher, are using 84 percent organic cotton, 68 percent organic linen and is reducing water use and carbon emissions and working to make its supply chain sustainable by 2020.

But not all of us can afford a $108 organic shirt. What about the rest of us.

Buy secondhand!

Your local thrift stores will be the cheapest, greenest and coolest place to find unique clothes made to last. Plus they’ll already have that great worn in feel.

Many fashion industry labels are trying to market to conscious consumers.

To name a few initiatives:

I emphasize market because it’s increasingly hard for consumers to tell the difference between marketing and actually internal business changes. A lot of these initiatives are offshoots of the brand, non-profit arms or attempts to recapture materials.

Something truly sustainable will hit the triple bottom line, benefiting people, planet and profit:

So next time you reach for the wallet, ask yourself: how much use are you getting out of this purchase?

On average, we will only wear those clothes seven times before we dispose of them.

In 1991, the average American bought and disposed of 34 items of clothing a year and by 2007, it was up to 67 items every year — in the trash.

Take a look in your closet and see which items inside you’ve worn more than 7 times. Then what to do you with them if you decide to get rid of them?

Because most of our clothes are synthetic (about 50%) in a landfill they won’t biodegrade for 400 years.

We could also use those materials to make other up-cycled stuff like pillows. See this article on the Atlantic on where our discarded clothing goes.

Try to donate or recycle them if you can. You could even go for 33 basic fashion necessities and tidy up that closet.

Find a local mission, Goodwill or bring them with you on your next visit to a GreeNYC farmers market — they have a textile recycling bins.

This is part five of my series on Design & Nature.

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