SAN MARCOS, Texas — If there’s one thing Market Day and Open Closet prove is that Bobcats love their thrifting. On Market Days that pop up during the semester. The Quad becomes lined with tents shielding booths from the bright midday sun, the air humming with the chatter of vendors and customers alike. A variety of vintage or second hand shirts, dresses, pants, shoes, and hats are exchanged as Bobcats fill in their wardrobe and contribute to a more environmentally friendly shopping practice.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fact and figures report on Materials, Waste and Recycling data specific to nondurable goods, in 2018 13 million tons of clothing and footwear were disposed of in landfills and combusted. The numbers are equivalent to approximately the weight of 371,429 humpback whales.
Many environmentalists criticize the fashion industry and trends for the escalation of textile waste that has increased in the last 20 years with fast fashion. According to Vou magazine, fast fashion is a fashion industry business model of mass-producing clothing inspired by catwalk trends and high-fashion designs at a low production cost and bringing them to retail stores quickly and at low prices at fast rates.
According to Environmentalist and Associate Professor of Sociology, Dr. Michelle Lynn Edwards, the individual consequences of fast fashion are often dismissed by consumers who benefit from low prices.
“When I hear the terms, textile waste, what comes to mind right away is our fashion choices,” said Edwards. “There are certainly folks that I know personally, who just don’t really understand the connection between the choices that they’re making on an individual scale, and the kind of consequences … of the textile waste.”
With fast fashion producing mass amounts of cheaply made fabrics at high rates, large amounts of the garments eventually end up in landfills. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, every second the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. As described by political science major, Mia Jimenez, those fast rates of product turnout exceed customer needs and demands.
“I thrift every time I go back home, I try my best to always buy second hand because I’m aware of like, the like, obviously the big things like Shein and like all of those companies, how those are even starting to end up now in thrift stores,” said Jimenez. “It’s still damaging to the thrifting because they’re putting these bad, like low quality fabrics into their stores, which eventually are going to end up in the landfill again.”
For Bobcats and residents of Hays county, the city contracts Texas Disposal System (TDS), a Travis county independently-owned solid waste collection and disposal company in Central Texas. TDS processes MSW by federal and environmental standards of controlling and designated for processing waste, and breaking down the waste until it creates methane and carbon dioxide gas from the decay, which is collected to be vented, burned, or converted into energy.
However, that’s not to say there is zero environmental harm that comes from landfills. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report, methane is a potent greenhouse gas 28 to 36 times more effective than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
Many consumers feel guilt about their contribution to pollution through their shopping choices. According to thredUP’s 2022 Resale Report, 43% of consumers who buy fast fashion say they feel guilty for wearing or purchasing fast fashion and 2 in 3 consumers who shop fast fashion say they aspire to buy more secondhand fashion.
However, as stated by electronic media major Lauren Hartung, many feel that thrifting helps them choose sustainable shopping, but the choice is not always easy.
“I think [thrifting] is a great way to basically help the environment, you know, and help with overconsumption, and also get more use out of your clothes,” said Hartung. “I’m not gonna say I’m perfect and say that I never shopped fast fashion because I do sometimes. I try not to but I think the reason is just affordability.”
Many Bobcats face the same dilemma, with well kept vintage items ranging from $40 to $100 in markets and vintage thrift stores located on the square. However, many Bobcats see the high cost of well made items as an investment. The benefit of thrifting the well kept vintage items is that they are well made and likely to last far longer than fast fashion clothing as well as adding personality to the shoppers’ wardrobe, as described by advertising major, Michael Ibarra, who favors clothing from the 70’s and 80’s.
“I mean, why get clothes that everybody else has when their stores often have clothes that are pretty unique,” said Ybarra. “Like this scarf, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this pattern before. And it’s good for the environment. [Sometimes people] are like, ‘Oh, this has stains on it.’ And I’m like, oh, like, it brings personality to the clothes! I like when something feels worn or feels like somebody has worn it before. I think it gives it personality.”
While thrifting is helpful to reduce the amount of textile waste the United States produces, it is not the perfect solution to all textile waste problems. According to Professor Edwards, another important component to reducing our contribution to textile waste is reduction. With the reduction of fast fashion consumption, environmentalists hope to reduce the power the fast fashion industry has over the fashion economy and the waste they produce.
“I think for some of us, maybe what I would recommend would be trying to reduce what we’re using. Buy less,” said Edwards. “Try to make do with the same items for longer periods of time, and maybe mix up different outfits in ways that you maybe hadn’t kind of created before…”
The fast fashion industry’s labor is commonly outsourced to developing countries that face extreme working conditions for cheap labor. According to Professor Edwards, while many consumers are aware of this, they often disregard the knowledge due to not seeing the effects of their choices impact them.
“Here in the United States, we’re able to ignore some of the consequences of the choices that we make on a larger scale because those consequences are felt in other countries,” said Edwards. “I remember when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin, seeing just like piles of clothing that had been sent over. So thinking about where clothing goes, once you donate it, or once you throw it away? A lot of times it disappears from our vision. So bringing that in, to make people aware of the production, [from] the beginning to end of the textiles that we’re using, I think is really important.”
For more information on thrifting options available in San Marcos go to visitsan marcos.com