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The thriving consignment store, Déjà Vu, on Second St. was started by Nancy Stephens in 2002 when she saw the need in the Cedar Key community for locally available and economically priced gently used clothing. Thus began one of Cedar Key’s many contemporary efforts to recycle.
Even if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to shop at Déjà Vu, you’ve probably been recycling your clothes for years, though you may not think of it that way.
Every time you donate your outdated clothes or worn shoes to the Salvation Army or Goodwill or give your kid’s too small shirts and shorts to the toddler next door, you’re extending the life of this attire and forestalling the need to manufacture anew - saving energy, water and other resources.
As only 16 percent of discarded clothes and shoes are recycled, taking up more space in the solid waste stream than any other non-durable goods, any effort to recycle clothing is worthwhile. Millions of tons of clothing are wasted every year despite the best efforts of charities, consignment and thrift stores.
A good rule of thumb is “Never throw clothes away and once they’ve been reduced to rags, use them to dust your furniture.”
If you are a fashion diva (you buy, then ditch clothes for a newer, “hipper” style) there are other earth-friendly approaches in addition to recycling your clothes:
REDUCE – Buy fewer but higher quality clothes that will last longer. “What goes around comes around” is the way the fashion industry works, so beat them at their own game by building on your wardrobe, not trashing it.
BUY CLOTHES MADE FROM ORGANIC OR RECYCLED MATERIALS – Consider cotton: It is one of the most pesticide intensive crops in the world, requiring approximately 25 percent of all pesticides applied in the world. These pesticides endanger the farmers who apply them and the birds that come in contact with them, contaminating our drinking water from run-off into streams, rivers and lakes.
Ninety percent of municipal water treatment facilities lack equipment to remove these chemicals. In addition, five of the top nine pesticides used in cotton production are known carcinogens. By wisely investing our funds into organic clothing, we can increase the amount of organic farming with market demand, convincing the 99 percent of non-organic cotton farmers to switch farming practices.
Nylon and polyester clothing are made from petrochemicals, which means they’re energy and water intensive and don’t biodegrade. Buying a jacket created from recycled plastic grocery bags reduces pollution, saves energy and water and reduces landfill.
Once fabric is produced, the bleaches, dyes and “finished processes” have their own environmental impact.
Dyes contaminate our waterways with heavy metals. Chlorine bleach can produce the carcinogen dioxin and “permanent press” fabrics may be treated with formaldehyde and other possible carcinogens.
People who are chemically sensitive may react to dyes and fabric finishes by developing skin, rashes, headaches, nausea, dizziness and difficulty breathing.
So don’t let all this doom and gloom make you shed your threads, join the nearest nudist colony and live “au natural” for the rest of your life.
Instead, embrace the organic cotton T-shirt, raw silk scarves, linen and hemp slacks, vests spun from recycled soda bottles, shoes carved out of cork and refurbished rubber and don’t forget to frequent the likes of Déjà Vu.
From top to toe, our wardrobes are getting earth friendlier and Mother Nature is probably taking a sigh of relief. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was inspired to accessorize her fig leaf with a hemp purse.