opinion

COLUMN: Your spring cleaning isn’t all that clean



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As February  — and hopefully winter — draws to a close, it is about that time when your closet might be looking a bit full. 

In order to make room for all those cute spring break ensembles, you have to let go of some things, right? Just make sure you’re letting go of old things in a way that’s gentle to our environment.

Spring cleaning often takes place this time of year, describing not only disinfecting your counters and mopping your floors, but clearing out your life of objects — clothes, books, miscellaneous — in order to start fresh for the warmer months. 

I personally love a good cleaning reset, and so if spring is a valid excuse to have one, I am all in favor. But after such a hectic winter, it begs the question: How clean is your spring cleaning actually? Is it really so bad to just throw out your clothes? The answer is a firm yes.

Last summer, Newsweek published a story detailing how some designer companies such as Burberry destroy excess items instead of giving them to discount or outlet stores . 

Companies claim multiple reasons for burning excess merchandise. One of them is to discourage counterfeit reproductions. Others say it is to keep high-end merchandise out of the hands of bargain shoppers or “unworthy owners.” Whatever the reason, the irresponsible disposal of textiles by both large and small scale entities is not doing the planet any favors.

Not only is fast fashion responsible for 92 million tons of waste dumped in landfills each year, it exploits the planet, people and consumers alike. When we dispose of our clothes by just throwing them out, it goes to a landfill where cheap, common fabrics found in huge retail stores take hundreds of years to break down, if they break down completely at all.

Fast fashion and the decluttering of it in our closets are directly hurting our ecosystem.

This is the same outcome whether it is Burberry disposing of its last summer’s inventory or your neighbors clearing out their wardrobes — it could not hurt to start being a little more conscious of how our cleaning habits might not be so clean for the environment. 

When it comes time to think about changing up your wardrobe, giving it that old “out with the old, in with the new,” consider where your clothes may end up after you decide to part ways.

Instead of throwing out old undergarments, wash them and cut them into flat pieces to use as cleaning cloths around the house. When getting rid of clothing, either take it to a textile recycling facility or check to see if shelters in your community are accepting donations. 

When you donate or recycle textiles it cuts down on the palm oil used in manufacturing. It creates demand for one less article of harmful clothing, not to mention your old sweater is doing a lot more good for someone who is less fortunate than sitting in the bottom of a landfill.

When it comes time to fill all the new drawer space you just cleared out, instead of heading to a fast fashion store like H&M or Forever 21, check out local thrift shops or Goodwill. Plato’s Closet is another secondhand store chain that has quality clothing at a fraction of the original price.

By reducing how much you shop at big retailers, you are reducing demand for products that jeopardize our ecosystem, the human rights of workers and, most of all, the industries that are responsible for the latter. 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with moving clothes in and out of your fashion cycle. Taste changes, temperature changes, trends change. 

How you impact those changes is incredibly important to helping mitigate damages of climate change. Cutting down on fast fashion clothing you buy, along with properly recycling old clothes, is a great first step.

After all, if your cleaning habits are not clean for the planet, are they really clean at all?

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