Think Tank: Mitigating the Harmful Side of Unsustainable Consumer Practices

Read the full story in Women’s Wear Daily.

For decades, it was an established routine: Fashion designers dreamed up their creations, models walked them down the runway and about six months later, a version showed up at your local mall.

That’s not good enough anymore.

Fast-fashion outlets like Zara and Forever 21 have sped up that schedule. Now, consumers get runway-inspired looks within weeks, creating a cycle in which customers eagerly shop new styles while ruthlessly discarding the old.

That pattern of buying something cheap, then throwing it away in a few months isn’t unique to fashion. Customers upgrade last year’s smartphones and replace non-HD TVs at a similarly breakneck speed. This cycle is a natural byproduct of our impatient, on-demand economy: we want the things we want now, and when we’re done with them, we want them out of our closets immediately.

Unfortunately, that cycle is starting to hurt the planet. According to the U.N., the amount of global e-waste — electronic products at the end of their useful life — reached a staggering 41.8 million tons in 2014. In her book “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy,” Georgetown professor Pietra Rivoli wrote that we discard so many consumer items each day that “there are nowhere near enough people in America to absorb the mountains of cast-offs, even if they were given away.”

But there’s a way to combat the rising amounts of waste clogging our landfills — and it’s not by buying an expensive, “all natural” version of what we already have. It’s by taking a little extra time to buy and sell items secondhand.

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