Nearly everyone wears clothes. Whether as a method of self-expression or simply as a way to avoid being naked, most people in the world get dressed every day.
But over the past few decades, our relationship with clothing has changed drastically. With the rise of “fast fashion,” people are buying clothes at unprecedented rates, and many now treat clothing as something that is disposable. Greenpeace reports that the average person today buys 60 percent more items of clothing and keeps them for about half as long as 15 years ago.
The average American discards 70 pounds of clothing every year. That adds up to 21 billion pounds of post consumer textile waste annually in the United States alone. So where does all of that clothing go? Some gets donated to charity shops, but less than 20% gets resold. The supply far exceeds the demand, so the charities pack up the excess clothes in bales and send them overseas (although many countries now refuse our used clothing), some get recycled into rags, insulation or new fibers, and the rest gets landfilled or incinerated. In fact, the equivalent of a garbage truck full of textiles is landfilled or incinerated every second.
The overconsumption of clothes is a global phenomenon. People all around the world are buying clothes they don’t need, often with money they don’t have. Fast fashion brands are pushing out 52 micro-seasons a year with marketing campaigns that aim to make you feel perpetually out of style. Social media adds fuel to the fire, providing an ecosystem that encourages people to incessantly post pictures of themselves (many of whom will not commit the fashion crime of being an outfit repeater).
Why should you care? Our voracious appetite for clothing has serious consequences for the planet and for the people who make our clothes. The apparel industry is the 4th largest industrial polluter and accounts for 8% of global carbon emissions. Also, most of the people who make our clothes work in unsafe conditions with very little pay. 36 million people are living in modern slavery today, many of whom are working in the supply chains of Western brands.
In a world where fast fashion rules, a new fashion tech company aims to change the way women consume clothing. “We love fashion, but we are also extremely concerned about the impact the fashion industry has on people and on the environment,” said Nicole Robertson, co-founder of Swap Society. “Our throw-away culture goes beyond single-use disposable bags, bottles, cups and cutlery. For many, clothing has become disposable too. This behavior has dire consequences for the planet and for the people who make our clothes. We created Swap Society to make it fun and easy for women to refresh their wardrobes without buying something new.”
Swap Society is an online clothing swap for women and kids that gives consumers equal value for their clothes. Members send their gently used women’s and kids’ clothing to Swap Society in exchange for points that they use to get new pre-loved items of equal value. Swap Society carefully inspects each item they receive, then photographs and lists each accepted item, and their proprietary algorithm assigns a point total. Points are based on a few key metrics including desirability, seasonality, condition, inventory and retail value. Members can spend their points on thousands of high-quality women’s and kid’s items without having to buy something new.
With Swap Society, you get the rush of fast fashion without the guilt. Members can swap 24/7 with women across the United States from the comfort of their own homes. Plus the service costs 90% less than buying and selling secondhand clothes, so you can save a lot of money on your wardrobe while you’re at it.
“When I learned how polluting the fashion industry is, I started looking for alternatives. With a few exceptions, I stopped buying new clothes 8 years ago,” said Robertson. “I created Swap Society to help women consume less without sacrificing style and still having fun with fashion.”
Jordan French is the Executive Editor of Grit Daily. An award-winning journalist, he is on the editorial staff at TheStreet.com and a Fast 50 and Inc. 500-ranked entrepreneur.
He is the founder of Notability Partners and the co-founder of BNB Shield, Lisbon Hill Farms, Status Labs, BeeHex, BlockTelegraph, and Grit Daily. A biomedical engineer and intellectual-property attorney, French is the author of upcoming book, The Gritty Entrepreneur.