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Give a Sh!rt™ About Our Environment, One Thrifted Item at a Time

Image credit: Value Village

The apparel and footwear industry accounts for 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions — that’s almost as much as the total emissions of the European Union. And the number of fashion cycles for clothing production has increased from two a year to as many as 50-100. Each cotton T-shirt we own withdrew more than 700 gallons of water from our natural resources during production. What’s more is that North Americans send over 10.5 million tons of clothing to landfills each year, 95 percent of which can be reused or recycled — that’s a lot of water and other precious natural resources getting used and tossed out daily.

Our apparel waste problem has turned into a crisis, and we must stop ignoring it.

Waste Reduction Week

Last week, the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) led the 17th annual Waste Reduction Week (WRW), which works to raise awareness on our waste crisis and how we can reduce waste from our daily lives.

Throughout this year’s event, participants were encouraged to celebrate environmental efforts and achievements while thinking of innovative ideas and solutions to promote resource efficiency, waste reduction and a circular economy. From discussing textile, plastic and food waste, to ways that everyone can participate in a circular model, WRW not only educated citizens on the problem but also gave everyone an opportunity to learn how to make little changes in their day-to-day life for the broader good.

Supporting and promoting change

Throughout the week, each day was dedicated to a different theme, and Value Village™ (part of the Savers® family of thrift stores in Canada) was proud to be a part of it by creating an art installation, at Graffiti Alley in Toronto on Textiles Tuesday, which educated consumers on the true cost of clothing. This was the sixth installation Value Village has created in North America to raise awareness about what resources you’re really using up when you buy new apparel — and it’s not just the change in your pocket.

To give people a chance to take real action, we partnered with RCO to bring the I Give A Sh!rt® Challenge to Ontario and British Columbia secondary schools during WRW 2018 — educating kids about the importance of reuse and challenging them to organize an in-school recycling drive for used clothing and textiles. Two years ago, the realities of our crisis inspired us to encourage people to Give A Sh!rt about our environment by giving up goods they no longer need or want so that each item’s life could be extended. And today, we continue to advocate for consumers to join the secondhand movement because the most sustainable item is the one that already exists.

Making an impact — one used good at a time

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I know that some of you may be thinking, you’re just one person, right? That’s true. For you, it might start with purchasing one used item instead of a new one. But change usually starts with one decision and can create a ripple effect for all of us to fully incorporate reuse into the way we shop, live and style. What I hope to instill in you is that while the problem is indeed bigger than each of us as individuals, making smarter decisions when it comes to our shopping habits can go a long way toward making immediate impact.

After a week of celebrating and joining smart, innovative conversations at WRW in Toronto, I’m hopeful everyone can and will work together to support the fashion industry in a better future.

I hope you’ll join Value Village in Rethinking Reuse when it comes to your clothing footprint. 

As the Vice President of Recycling and Reuse at Value Village, Tony Shumpert oversees the recycling business operations for Savers (locally known as Value Village), a purpose-driven thrift retailer with nearly 330 stores across the U.S., Canada and… [Read more about Tony Shumpert]

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