By Sofi Cisneros
As Earth Day looms nearer, we’re all hyper-aware of our environmental duties as inhabitants of a progressively warming planet. Calls to take public transportation, limit our personal waste, and “reduce, reuse, recycle” play on a loop in our heads.
Repurposing clothes, in particular, has taken both the environmental and fashion industries by storm. With upcycling seeing an increase in popularity since 2020, thrifting sales on the rise, and nostalgic trends such as Y2k resurging on social media, this sustainable fashion craze has become unavoidable.
But even more important than the fashion trends themselves and the catchy, green slogans is the science behind it. What really happens when you repurpose your old clothes, whether it be through donations, reselling them, or upcycling? How are we actually contributing to a more sustainable future when we secondhand shop or upcycle garments?
Benefits of Repurposing Fashion
Here are 5 scientifically-backed environmental benefits of repurposing preloved clothing items.
1. Reduces energy consumption
The entire process of creating a garment from start to finish relies on a complicated system that uses more energy than both aviation and shopping combined, and requires 10 times more energy to produce one ton of textiles than for one ton of glass.
Whether it’s from fiber production in a clothing item’s early stages, or electricity used to transport and eventually sell clothes to consumers, producing our beloved clothes from scratch is no energy-saving regimen.
Repurposing clothing, whether it’s through purchasing second-hand or upcycling your own, completely avoids this energy-sucking process. A 2023 report from popular second-hand site ThredUp found that if everyone bought one second-hand clothing item instead of a newly produced piece this year, it would save 4B kWh of energy (that’s about 37B hours of watching Netflix!).
So, by sprucing up an old pair of jeans or hitting second-hand stores like Shop Repurpose, you’re directly cutting down electricity use from fossil fuels, fashion’s primary source of energy and the main culprit behind greenhouse gas emissions, and contributing to an overall more energy-preserving world.
The fashion industry’s high levels of energy consumption contributes to 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.
2. Lessens our carbon footprint
The fashion industry contributes to 10% of global carbon emissions and would take sixth place in the largest producer of carbon emissions if it were a country. If the fashion industry continues to mass produce garments using its current process, emissions from the industry alone will rise about 63% by 2030, which is equivalent to 2.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide.
Wearing and buying repurposed clothing instead of new clothing reduces emissions by an average of 25%, and saves 3kg of CO2 per each high/medium quality clothing reused. For each preloved item purchased from Repurpose’s luxurious collection, or bought fresh from our upcycling team’s latest innovations, customers can fashionably reap the benefits of SRW carbon emission reduction efforts.
3. Cuts down on water usage
Did you know that the pair of jeans you’re wearing right now took about 10 years worth of drinking water for one person (7,500-10,000 liters) to make? The clothing industry’s use of water, as exemplified in a singular pair of jeans, notoriously uses and wastes gallons upon gallons of water each year. The industry alone contributes to about 20% of global waste water.
Repurposing old clothes, therefore, could contribute to curbing the global water crisis we’re currently faced with, as reusing clothes requires only 0.01% of the water used to produce new ones. Buying a secondhand clothing item over a new item saves 88.89 gallons of water over a singular lifetime, while wearing pre owned or upcycled clothing avoids this water waste altogether.
The textile production process contributes to about 20% of global water waste.
4. Prevents waste and pollution
To put it into perspective, this equates to a garbage truck full of clothes getting dumped into a landfill site every second. Pollution is already an imminent global problem, and the fashion industry only exacerbates it further.
Repurposing clothes directly replaces the need to discard old garments. Instead of simply chucking an old sweater in the trash or recycling bins with the false belief that it will be efficiently repurposed, sidestep the complicated process entirely by getting crafty with your excess fabrics or by donating them to local second-hand shops.
5. Promotes sustainable habits
Repurposing clothes in and of itself is an environmentally admirable habit that has the power to sway others into following suit. Upcycling and repurposing clothes opens the floodgates to the sustainable fashion industry and general eco-friendly practices. By repurposing your clothes – whether it be by donating, purchasing second-hand, or upcycling, – you’ll be sure to get your sustainable ball rolling and jumpstart your journey into practicing more green habits that transcend the fashion industry.
By shedding much needed light on the harsh realities of the fashion industry in celebration of Earth Day, we hope that our critical eye here at Shop Repurpose inspires new and returning customers to join us in contributing to our mission of social good and sustainability.
So before you snatch up your next rare find at our Soho storefront or watch as our upcycling team creates the dress of your dreams, stop and think about the waste you’re reducing, harm you’re preventing, and planet you’re saving.