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Another View: ‘Be part of the solution, not part of the pollution’

It is not new knowledge that our planet is different today. Climate change has been a topic of discussion in the media, in classrooms and around the kitchen table. Some may believe change for a cleaner and healthy Earth can come only through political action and policies, but not necessarily. The change can start with you - and simply by how you shop.

“Thrifting goes hand in hand with a sustainable lifestyle. With Americans throwing away over 13 million tons of clothing each year, fast fashion and overconsumption lead to excess waste in landfills, carbon emissions from textile manufacturing and depletion of resources,” Lauren Mullen and Kate Huun write in a Dec. 15, 2023, University of Colorado Boulder article titled “A Sustainable Guide to Thrifting.” “Thrifting promotes sustainability by diverting clothing from landfills for reuse. You can participate in thrifting by donating unwanted clothing and purchasing used clothing instead of buying new.”

Like so many others, I, too, am a thrifter. I have purchased clothing at thrift shops for both myself and my son. Sometimes the items are brand new with tags. My favorite place to purchase secondhand clothes for myself is The Attic, located at 516 Main St., Bethlehem. I find a lot of expensive brands there. Although a fan of thrifting, I still like my designer labels!

Another store I frequent is Goodwill. I think one of the employees knows me by name. Shopping at Goodwill in Whitehall has become my Thursday morning activity. After I drop off my son at school, my husband just assumes I won’t be coming home right away. He’s usually correct.

I can easily fill up my shopping cart with an original painting in an antique frame, chapter books for my son, a decorative heavy-duty glass vase, a teacup that reminds me of my grandmother, that perfect picture frame I’ve been searching for and an in-really-good-shape stylish purse.

Recently, I purchased an original watercolor by Erma Frey for about $5 at The Salvation Army. One of her works is available on eBay for $120, and another two of her watercolors had an estimated value of $200-$400 and $300-$500 in an auction in 2018. And two weeks ago, I bought a rattan wicker shelf for only $8 - and in perfect condition! My pile of books now has a home on this shelf.

Not only does thrifting help the environment, but it also helps your finances. You can help save the planet and money. Last week, when I was browsing the bathroom accessory aisle at a popular home goods and decor store, I thought to myself, “I can find that cheaper at Goodwill.”

Before you decide to donate clothes or household items, it’s best first to consider if you can reuse it another way.

“Maybe you can mend an old pair of jeans instead of buying a new pair, or maybe you can cut up old T-shirts into rags, which is what my mom used to do with my dad’s old tees,” said Isaias Hernandez, a Los Angeles-based environmental educator who runs the Instagram account Queer Brown Vegan, in an interview with NPR’s Kavitha George in the Nov. 6, 2023, article “Cut Down Your Household Waste with These Five Creative Solutions.” “I do this now, too, and the rags are perfect for cleaning up after fixing my bike. I don’t feel bad about getting grease on them.”

This is an excellent suggestion to practice. The next time my son gets a hole in the knee of his jeans, I can just cut them into shorts.

Maybe you know someone who sews and can fix that rip in your sweater. Do you have a friend who is crafty and could use fabric and textile pieces to make a clothing item or a quilt? If not, find a suitable donation organization for these items. These are definitely more environmentally friendly choices than throwing the items in the trash.

In SwagCycle’s blog post “Keep Your Clothes Out of the Landfill: What To Do with Unwanted Clothing and Other Textiles” by Haley Jordan, she writes, “Producing the clothing we wear consumes an incredible amount of natural resources and contributes significantly to the climate crisis. The $2.5 trillion fashion industry is responsible for about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is also the second-biggest global consumer of water. Producing a single pair of jeans consumes about 7,500 liters of water.

“By keeping used clothing and other textiles out of landfills, we can limit the negative impacts of what we wear, reduce the need to create more clothes landfill space, help provide affordable clothing to those in need and encourage more sustainable systems for managing textile waste.”

If you have very worn-out pieces, there are programs that will take your items to recycle for another purpose, leaving your conscience free of guilt.

Carter’s and TerraCycle have partnered to create Kidcycle. According to carters.com, the process is easy: “Head to terracycle.com/carters to sign up for a TerraCycle account. Next, fill a box with the baby and kids clothes you intend to discard. Log into your account and download and print your free shipping label. Seal the box, attach your shipping label and drop it off at a shipping location near you. After packages are received at TerraCycle, Rewarding Moments members can earn points.

“Once collected, the clothing is separated by fabric type, shredded and recycled into materials for another use, such as home insulation and stuffing in workout equipment and furniture,” the website continues.

Another option is Retrievr. This company does pickups of clothes and electronics at Allentown residences “even if the clothes have holes or the electronics don’t work anymore,” the website states.

I really like these programs because if the clothes are torn or stained, they can still be donated. Even the not-so-good clothes can serve another purpose.

Sometimes it is these small changes in our lives that, over time and with increasing participation, create the differences we want to see and need for a thriving environment.

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” - Robert Swan, polar explorer, environmental leader and public speaker

Make that “someone else” you.

Stacey Koch

editorial assistant

Whitehall-Coplay Press

Northampton Press

Catasauqua Press