About 2,650 litres of water is used to make a single t-shirt. That is 140 of those big heavy water jugs that you have to hoist with your legs and watch out for your back while lifting it onto the water cooler! And it takes more than 7.5 times that much water just to make a pair of jeans. And that’s only considering the water that is needed. There are also hours of labour, pounds of thread, gallons of dye and additives that are used in the manufacturing process, plus the fuel needed to transport it all (usually from overseas). But clothing companies don’t want you to think about everything that went into that piece of clothing, because then you might treat it a little better, be a little pickier when deciding if you really like it and will wear it again, and probably not buy as many clothes in general. And that’s bad for business.
So, to keep the act of buying lots of new clothes enticing, fast fashion makes it seem like there is always a new clothing trend happening and you had better jump on board before you’re left behind and not considered “on-trend” anymore. To make this financially viable for customers, clothing companies have lowered their prices steadily (clothing is actually in deflation) and put pressure on their manufacturers to keep producing cheaper and cheaper clothing.
While it’s good for companies to strive to be more efficient, manufacturers can only reduce their costs so far before it is no longer feasible for them to offer their employees decent wages or ensure proper safety measures are met. For this reason, most clothing manufacturing is moved overseas to countries where there are lower wages and fewer safety standards for the employees and little to no environmental regulation in terms of disposing of dyes, excess materials, and general waste.
Beyond poor manufacturing practices, and a constant rotation of new clothes being purchased and worn only a few times, we’re also disposing of clothes at an unprecedented rate (40,000 metric tonnes or 44 shirts per person in Vancouver).
More For Less Thrift Stores have been diverting huge amounts of textile waste that would otherwise have sat in the Lethbridge landfill for years. You may wonder about the mission behind More for Less. Sarah Walser, the main coordinator, explains that More For Less is a nonprofit social enterprise operated by Peak Support Services, an organization that works with and helps individuals with special needs to learn life and employment skills. Peak Support Services also operates the social enterprise Peak Recycling Services which provides recycling services to Lethbridge business, service and school communities. More For Less and Peak Recycling Services provides a venue for meaningful work and job training for employment while rescuing clothing from donations received and providing an important recycling service to the Lethbridge community.
More For Less snatches up shirts, dresses, and stylish items from donations before they hit the landfill and gives them another cycle of use. Beyond doing a great job of providing our community with cute vintage clothing at very reasonable prices, More For Less has also worked with Lethbridge College, contributing unsold clothes to classes and workshops where they are then used and turned into brand new outfits and resewn clothing.
Another way that More For Less has been addressing textile recycling is through bulk sales. Sarah says More For Less will put the clothing in bins and allow customers to pick what they want to buy, filling a large bag which is sold by weight or by the bag. This not only gives the customers an amazing deal, but it gives the pieces that may have a few holes or tears a chance to be mended and reused rather than tossed. These bulk sales have been suspended due to COVID will be restarted in the future when it is safe to host groupings of people in a limited space.
Although More For Less Thrift Stores were located on 3rd Ave S, right across from the Galt Gardens, and 5th Ave N and 13th St., the stores have recently moved online and are currently selling items through Facebook Marketplace and on their Facebook store at https://www.facebook.com/moreforlessthriftstorelethbridge/. They’re not quite sure if or when they will have another physical location again (especially in the light of current circumstances) but until then we can still support this wonderful organization and purchase some gorgeous secondhand pieces from the safety of our homes.
Written by Annette Kerpel.