Green Neighbors Program

The Clark County Green Neighbors Program was developed and is maintained by Clark County Solid Waste and Environmental Outreach to assist citizens with developing more sustainable lifestyles and building a strong environmental community in Clark County. Solid waste regional planning and programs are a cooperative effort of Battle Ground, Camas, Clark County, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver, Washougal, and Yacolt. Funding for this project provided by a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology.

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Buying Clothing Can Be More Harmful Than You Think

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The average American throws away about 81 pounds of clothing every year, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. It can be tempting to buy new clothing often as cheap clothing is readily available, and the perception is that clothing can easily be passed on to someone else who needs it. However, the environmental cost of cheaply produced fashion is huge and the demand for used clothing isn't nearly as high as you might think. Manufacturing clothing uses large volumes of water, releases micro plastics and chemicals into our waters and emits greenhouse gases, among other environmental concerns. The clothing and textiles industry is second only to the oil industry in terms of pollution produced. Additionally, more clothes are donated in the United States than can be used here, and donated clothes are often sent to the landfill or resold abroad, particularly in South America and sub-Saharan Africa. However, these markets are beginning to reject imported, used clothing as cheap, new clothing becomes more easily available and market demands change. It is becoming obvious that we must change the way we consume and dispose of clothing and other textiles.

Tips to reduce your textile waste

• Buy needed items secondhand as often as you can.

• Find a clothing swap in your area to refresh your wardrobe without buying new textiles.

• Buy needed items from a company that uses sustainable production methods and sustainable materials, especially recycled materials. Also, look for companies that will take back and recycle their own products.

• Challenge yourself to not buy any clothing for six months, and try to wear everything you own within that same period. You will probably find you can easily live with what you have.

• When you do need new clothing, buy classic, high-quality items that will last a long time and won't go out of style. You will also be able to resell or gift these items when you no longer use them.

• Make it a habit to get your clothing tailored. Tailors can often fix damaged items to extend their life, and they can give items the fit you desire so you don't need to buy something new.

• Spot clean and air dry your clothes as much as possible to reduce wear to the garment and save energy.

• Re purpose your unusable old clothing. This can be as simple as cutting them up for use as rags, or you can search the web for DIY crafts. 

• Donate clothes responsibly. Look for local organizations that resell or give away items within the community, rather than larger organizations that ship much of their donations overseas or send them to the landfill.

• Recycle clothing when possible. Look for recycling programs that accept the specific materials you have, and try to avoid programs that resell any of the items they receive, as those items may simply take a long trip to the landfill.

The single most impactful thing we can do to reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry is to buy less clothing. Most of us do not regularly wear everything we own, and buying less clothing would result in extra spending money, more free space, less time spent organizing and searching for clothing, and reduced stress when it comes to putting together outfits.
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