On April 22, more than one billion people around the globe will celebrate Earth Day. They'll plant trees, unplug electronics, switch to energy-efficient light bulbs and, if they received a particularly good tax rebate, maybe even trade in their gas-guzzler for a hybrid. From the classroom to the workplace to the garage, there's nothing hipper than going green. But there's one place I bet you haven't gone green yet: inside your closet.
When it comes to clothes consumption, our culture's collective mantra is more shop 'til you drop than reduce, reuse, recycle. The average American spends close to $2,000 on clothes every year. (And I'm sure a few of you are saying "I spent more than that on clothes this weekend!") Paris Hilton, for one, recently claimed she never wears the same outfit twice. Hilton quickly followed that up by noting that she donates her used clothes to charity, but, as a whole, Americans aren't recycling as many of our clothes as we could be.
According to an omnibus survey conducted by Kelton Research and Goodwill Industries International, seven out of ten consumers admit they occasionally choose to simply discard used clothes instead of donating them. Not only that, but for every one article of clothing they do donate, they have at least 30 more articles of clothing that are ready to be donated but don't make it out of the house.
Donating used clothes can help the environment by diverting items from landfills; and shopping for donated clothes can cut down on our country's massive collective clothing consumption. Furthermore, by being conscious of where donated clothes are going, consumers can ensure that the profits from the sale of their used items funds much-needed social and community programs.
That's why I was excited to hear about a TV star who isn't hesitant to say that reducing, reusing and repurposing clothing is cool. Shareen Mitchell, the star of the new Planet Green show, Dresscue Me, is an L.A.-based designer who has dressed celebrities like Katy Perry and garnered praise from fashion icons including Marc Jacobs and André Leon Talley. But on her new show, instead of designing clothes from scratch, Shareen works with everyday women to turn vintage clothing finds into fashion-forward frocks, proving that Hollywood style and environmental sustainability can coexist.
I hope more celebrities -- and everyday people -- will follow Shareen's lead and make reducing and reusing a major part of refreshing their wardrobe. If you're looking for something to do to help the environment this Earth Day, try bringing your gently used clothes to Goodwill, and instead of hitting the mall afterward, follow Shareen's advice and find something there to bring home as well.
If every woman in America donated just one dress to Goodwill this Earth Day, our organization could provide 28 million hours of job training classes to Americans who are out-of-work. Going green shouldn't stop at your closet door.
How much of a difference can your former wardrobe make? Use our Donation Impact Calculator to calculate your impact.