As the school year begins, adolescents flood into clothing stores in search for that one trending graphic tee, or a Drake-themed beanie to pile in their closet. Most spenders do not realistically need all the items that they buy.
Competitive consumption has weighed heavily on students’ self esteem for those who cannot keep up with the latest trends. Furthermore, a rising demand has also increased waste, which has put enormous pressure on the environment.
The constant demand for “stuff” has left our environment in poor condition, and has restricted its room for improvement. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans produced 15.1 million tons of textile waste in 2013 alone, and about 85 percent of this waste ended up in landfills. The remaining 15 percent of unwanted clothing went to Goodwill, Salvation Army, and other second-hand stores, where some clothes are re-sold, and some extremely unwanted items hold the golden ticket to landfills. With advances in industrial technology and an endless supply of cheap labor, consumers have come to accept that clothing, which is reusable, is disposable.
Stores constantly update their clothing racks with the latest fashionable items, and many people make it their mission to purchase them. These consumers often set a model for others, and pressure them to avoid being labeled as “basic.” Urban dictionary defines the slang term “basic” as used to describe someone who does not encompass defining characteristics that might make a person interesting or worth noticing. Above all, adolescents are the most at risk to succumb to these clever marketing ploys because they are constantly trying to define their identity based on their image.
“Materialism can lead someone feeling exclusively left out and personally, I often feel myself being judged if I don’t have certain clothes,” University High School junior Emely Hernandez said.
Despite the trend towards materialism, there are ways to reduce the amount of textile waste in landfills. Before disposing clothes, put time aside to go through the clothes and make sure it is absolutely not needed anymore. At this point, clothes can be donated to second-hand stores, or you can establish your own garage sale.
Alternatively, you can donate clothes to recyclers who break down the material and reuse it in other forms such as cleaning rags, carpet padding (a layer of support beneath carpet), or even as padding for playgrounds. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
If you must buy clothes, for either a mandatory school uniform or a business casual look for an interview, make the decision of quality over quantity. High-quality material will increase the chance that the clothes are long-lasting and a permanent garment in your closet. Step by step, society can work to inhibit this culture of disposability.
Regarding adolescents, there is no sure immunity to self pressure. Despite feeling the need to have the latest items on the market, material and appearance relies on the thin surface of your skin. It is your purest self that prevails through it all.