It’s no secret that the fashion industry is largely responsible for an inordinate amount of our planet’s CO2 emissions, waste, and water consumption. Every year, roughly 200 million pounds of clothes are dumped into New York City landfills; with this amount, we could pack the Statue of Liberty with clothes 440 times over. Likewise, based on lifecycle analysis calculations, the footwear and apparel industries are responsible for 3,990 million metric tons of CO2e.
With these jarring statistics in mind, Remake initiated the #NoNewClothes pledge, where conscious consumers pledged to refrain from purchasing any new clothes for 90 days to reset their relationship with the fashion industry. In the wake of Covid-19 and the #PayUp movement, it’s become more apparent than ever that the fashion industry needs to make some grossly overdue changes.
Emily Long is a Remake ambassador and has refrained from buying new clothes for over two years now. As a design and merchandising major in college, she noticed the severe impacts the industry had on the environment. Speaking on this topic, she said, “I had the power to decide that this wasn’t what I needed to do even though the media and trends kept saying ‘buy more, buy more.’ It’s time for me to step back and make a better conscious decision. There is no planet B.”
For some, the skepticism of the fast fashion industry awakened after unearthing the abuse and exploitation commonly suffered by garment workers. On why Elle Magana took part in the #NoNewClothes challenge, she recalled, “I was learning about sweatshops, and it really clicked. Once you gain more knowledge, you start to think more about how you’re shopping, and that started to make me feel guilty…I started to feel more responsible for what I was doing.”
Like Elle and Emily, 1,145 individuals signed the pledge. In doing so, participants preserved an estimated 16,409,377 gallons of water, prevented 6,345,113 pounds of CO2 emissions, and prevented 23,189 pounds of waste. Additionally, they saved themselves a total of $259,652.
These numbers are no small feat; they prove just how influential our collective purchasing power truly is.
Beyond the conservational effects, signees reflected on how easy it was to shake the detrimental consumer habits that are so deeply ingrained in our society. Many discovered the liberation in repurposing and purchasing secondhand clothing. Remake ambassador, Alexina Prather, notes, “I have yet to buy an item secondhand where I come home and regret it. I have memories of going to Zara or H&M and going on a big spree…there were always one or two items where I was like ‘I’m not going to wear this.’”
During the 90 days, Emily Long also hosted a Reworking workshop, Fix It Mend It Repurpose It, for Remake via Zoom in which she discussed the various ways you can sew pieces together to give them a new life and personality. She notes, “It’s way easier than you think. Even if you shift half of your purchasing power to vintage or thrift, you can make a huge difference.”
For many, the thought of swearing off retail therapy and online shopping for three months is daunting in and of itself. The overwhelming reactions from this challenge, however, were quite contrary to that popular belief. Fellow ambassador, Shrutaswini Borakoty, expressed, “Consumer habits are harmful because most of the time, we do things for others—to show others [we’re] following trends. [Fashion brands] play with insecurities…when you do this challenge, you realize how many items you have in your wardrobe, and you feel really grateful and abundant.”
Change is certainly within our realm of possibility— monumental change at that. The #NoNewClothes impact showed it.
The participants of this challenge can attest that making small alterations to their daily lives isn’t such an insurmountable task. In order to change the world, we must first start by changing ourselves and our individual habits. From there, we can have in instrumental impact.