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Sustain Champlain is a campus-wide initiative strives to infuse sustainability concepts and practices across Champlain College by coordinating and promoting best practices within four areas: our institution, academics, operations, and culture.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Going Mindful- Second Hand Clothes & Holiday Recycling

Hello Beavers,

Winter is already here, and I’m sure many of ya’ll have brought out your big jackets or are tempted by all the winter collections at your favorite store. I’ve been eying some lovely cardigans that are being sold at Urban Outfitters....Too rich for my blood, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that this applies too. Thankfully, Burlington and the surrounding area has a plethora of second hand shops.

Second hand shops, also called thrift stores, are treasure troves and they can help save the environment. How? In case you haven’t noticed, it’s part of the American Culture to accumulate lots of stuff and we love to accumulate clothes. I don’t mean to always use the French as a counter example, but look at how they buy clothes. They buy expensive, quality items that are going to last for many years, whereas we have a tendency buy what’s on sale. Because of this, we end up with lots of clothes we don’t like and they can find their way into our landfills. According to a Huffingpost Article, the EPA says that “Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year and clothing and other textiles represent about 6.3% of the municipal solid waste (in major cities like New York and Chicago alone, textiles make up a whopping 10% of all municipal waste).” This can be avoided for the most part by considering how we dispose of our clothing. Instead of throwing your clothes away, take the time to bring them to The Good Will, Salvation Army, or any centers that organize items for families in need.

You can also bring your more in style and gently worn clothes to consignment shops. If you don’t know what those are, let me graciously elaborate; I absolutely love these places. Consignment shops give you money for clothes they want to sell. Some stores will give you money up front so you don’t have to check in to see if someone has bought your once beloved pants that didn’t fit so well after the freshman fifteen. Now, if you bought a $200 dollar jacket a few years ago you probably won’t get offered more than $20. You might only even be offered $1 for an item, but $1 is better than $0. Battery Street Jeans (which is located on Pine Street…not Battery Street) gives you this option. Plato’s closet in Williston also gives you money upfront, though they usually only take really ‘in-style’ items, so be especially critical of items you want to bring her. Other stores will take what they want to sell, mark them, and you’ll get a percentage the money after they have been bought. Check into these stores to see what the policy is. I know that if you want money upfront at Battery Street, they will give you a lesser percentage. But, if you decide to keep what has been sold for store credit to be used there, the amount will be a bit higher. Just ask if you’re confused and the managers will gladly explain.

I believe that thrifting is one of the more ‘fun’ things to do to Be Mindful. Composting is good and great, but I’m sure most people don’t love turning steaming piles of leftovers. Being Mindful doesn’t always have to be hard. It’s also fairly cheap once you get good at it. Ladies, you can find tons of oversize sweaters and cardigans that are always in season, and I know I can find lots of flannels for my very Vermont beau with minimal searching required. And you can shop at ‘higher’ end consignment stores. If you love vintage, and I mean actual vintage, Old Gold on Main Street is an excellent place to check it out. If you love the way Seven for All Man Kind jeans (or any premium denim) make your booty look, check out Second Time Around on Church Street. You’ll pay anywhere from $60-$100 for a pair of the iconic jeans, but that’s a lot better than paying $200 and up. And who doesn’t love jeans that have already been worn in.

Some of my favorite thrifty finds have been:

$5 pair of Frye Boots (usually $230)—they didn’t fit well, so I sold them on Ebay for $110. Cha-ching!

$15 American Apparel Hoodie (usually $45)

$7 Men’s Ralf Lauren Sweater (God only knows how much that cost)

$5 Prana Yoga Pants (usually $70....Probably the most comfortable pants ever)

Consumerism is another related topic. Most American’s know that the clothing they wear hasn’t been stitched, button, and packaged by workers who receive enough money or proper working conditions. It is up to you to decide if you want to support a certain company, and I cannot have a holier than thou attitude because my entire closet was probably pieced together in sweatshops. Even if your favorite business is not using sweatshop labor, they might be throwing away perfectly good clothing. One notable store is H&M. An article ran in the New Yorker, written by Jim Dwyer in the beginning of 2010, about the clothing store cutting circles into jackets and shirts they hadn’t sold and putting them into dumpsters. Walmart and other non-clothing stores like Home Depot have also been accused of doing the same.

After reading through the comments, I found several reasons why this may happen. Clothing stores that had donated their left over goods noticed people trying to return the clothes for money or store credit. Another reason to dispose of the clothing is for tax purposes. A question that can be asked is why are these companies making so many extra clothes that they have to throw them out. Surely, they must have some analyst that is tracking trends to see what will likely be bought and what won’t. It seems that this excessive waste is unnecessary. You buying one second hand shirt isn’t going to derail an entire company. It’ll take many people and probably many years before these company's see a dent in their wallets. Waste is unnecessary and is costing them money as well, but something in the system is causing them to still do so.

On my final note, it’s Christmas Eve and if you’re like me you’re frantically wrapping your presents. If you haven’t, stop! We generate so much extra waste this holiday through wrapping paper that is just ripped off. According to the website earth911, the wrapping paper industry makes 2.6 billion a year. Instead, think of other things you can use to wrap presents. If you have a family member, perhaps a sister, who is really into fashion, rip out pages from a Vogue or Nylon and use that to cover your gift. Newspaper is highly ubiquitous; gift bags can be reused, and so can wrapping paper if you open veryyyy carefully! I know that unwrapping a gift is a fun part of Christmas (and any other holiday!!!), but for me at least, closing my eyes and holding out my hand is just as exciting too.

If you’ve already wrapped your gifts, don’t fret. There are still ways for you to be mindful. Now that you’ve opened your gifts, you have to do something with the leftovers. Don’t rest on your laurels and throw everything into one big bag. If your parents got something shipped to the house and just wrapped it, make sure you break down the box. If there was a Styrofoam block inside you cannot recycle that. The same goes with those plastic pillows. First I suggest stuffing them down the back of your pants and pretending you have a booty. The holidays are prime time for silliness! Afterward, pop them and you can bring them in with shopping bags to the grocery store, where they can be recycle. Wrapping paper is harder to place because it contains a lot of dye, laminates, and the quality probably isn’t good enough for recycling. This is a time where you can probably them out. However, some towns organize mass collections. You can also contact your local recycler and ask them what you should throw out and what you can recycle.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and get a chance to be absolutely lazy before the new semester starts. I’m not sure what I’ll be writing about next time, so it’ll be a surprise!

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