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What sustainable impact do we have by not buying new?
Emily Stochl is a writer, journalist, and podcast creator, with expertise in the vintage and secondhand fashion industry, sustainability, and labor rights activism. As guest writer, she is sharing with you her thoughts on second hand and its positive impact.
This is Emily, producer and host of Pre-Loved Podcast, a progressive and intersectional weekly interview show exploring the vintage, thrift and secondhand industry: all its stories, and all its angles. I am also Remake’s Advocacy Manager, helping lead ambassador engagement around advocacy and campaigns, such as #NoNewClothes.
Like many, my journey to ‘not buying new’ began as a teenager. I started shopping second hand because it was affordable and accessible on my budget. At the time, I didn’t connect shopping secondhand to my value system — I just thought it was fun, cheap, and cool!
When I realized I couldn’t separate my values from my shopping habits
It wasn’t until I watched The True Cost in 2015 that I realized I couldn’t separate my values from my shopping habits. You see, my grandma was very involved in my upbringing and until she “retired” to take care of me, she was a single-mother of six children who worked nights at a factory job. She had a challenging life, but always clarified that her situation would have been significantly harder without her union job. She was heavily involved with her union and participated in several walk-outs to fight for better wages and protections for herself and fellow workers.
Unfortunately, the kinds of worker protections that made “getting by” possible for my grandma and her family are no longer common in the United States, nor the globalized industrial industry.
My no-turning-back moment
Now when I hear about garment workers who do factory work to support their own families, and at the same time experience criminal wage theft, starvation wages, and exploitative, dangerous conditions every day, it is impossible for me to disconnect these experiences from my own grandma’s past. According to The Clean Clothes Campaign, the vast majority of the world’s garment workers — over 80% — are women. Many of them are young, and supporting families. When I made these connections I, personally, could not participate in an industry that put their well-being at risk in order to produce cheap clothing.
I was already primarily shopping second hand at that time, but this became my ‘no turning back’ moment. Since then, I have always prioritized choosing secondhand first, and supporting sustainable and ethical brands when possible for me to make that investment.
Sharing more than a hundred stories around pre-loved
I started Pre-Loved Podcast in 2018, and since then, I have interviewed over 100 guests about their own journey of choosing pre-loved. Many interviewees experienced turning points similar to mine, where a first-hand story or a documentary made them realize choosing secondhand is an impactful way to divest from the harm of the fast fashion industry. Others came to understand fashion’s issues by working inside the industry, or after being confronted with fashion’s waste.
Others still came to the world of secondhand clothing via a personal confidence and style journey, then came to inextricably connect that choice with their broader values and conscious.
This is my fashion activism
These days there are a lot of online conversations about whether or not individual actions can lead to systemic social change. While I don’t think my own secondhand shopping is going to “save the world,” I do understand it as a decision I have the power to control within the wider broken fashion system I am actively trying to change through all kinds of fashion activism.
Through my own experience, and the podcast interviews I’ve conducted, it’s clear that choosing secondhand is a common entry point to the broader conversation about sustainable and ethical fashion. That’s why, this summer, I’m chairing the #NoNewClothes campaign for the fashion activism non-profit, Remake.
We hope to bring 3,000 people together to take the #NoNewClothes Pledge for 90 Days. The goal of this pledge is to help all of us reset our relationship to fashion and overconsumption.
Individual actions multiplied
Campaigns like #NoNewClothes to me are a reminder of the way “individual action” multiplies significantly when done alongside a community of activists.
By pledging to buy no new clothes — whether that’s buying nothing at all or only secondhand — we will reduce our carbon footprint, limit the waste we send to the landfill, and keep our hard-earned dollars away from companies that hurt people and the planet.
And these are the numbers…
On average, Americans purchase about 16 new pieces of clothing every 3 months. But by opting out, and not buying new clothing, each person taking the #NoNewClothes pledge saves approximately:
- 54,250 liters of water
- 2,513 kg of CO2e 9.1 kg of waste
- And $226.77 USD.
Now, consider this impact multiplied by 3,000 participants! Big difference.
Perhaps #NoNewClothes, divesting from fast fashion, or choosing second hand is your first step in a conscious fashion journey. There is comfort in knowing you’re not taking these first steps alone. And knowing that together, we’re working toward a larger mission of building a fashion industry that is a force for good.
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What is Renoon?
A new way to discover and shop fashion responsibly
Renoon is a leading app for sustainability and fashion. We connect our members with the multitude of brands and platforms to simplify and enrich the experience of combining style with sustainability values.
A destination and community launched in 2021, guiding thousands of members in their sustainability journey. Renoon is not yet another shop; it’s an entire universe of values, untold stories about sustainability and a cohesive place where intentions become reality.