“Waste Not, Want Not” Updated For Today’s Conscious Consumer

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Those three calls to action are well known throughout the culture thanks to the efforts made by environmental activists since 1970. Now, according to a story in Los Angeles Times, there’s an update for conscious consumers to consider: Reuse. Remake. Refrain.

The article focuses on the “Reuse” and “Remake” aspects of the solution. But I’d like to pull a factoid from the story that helps us consider the need to “Refrain.”

Each year, Americans trash a prodigious portion of their closets: 26 billion pounds of apparel, textiles and footwear, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The amount thrown out by consumers surged 40% in 2009 from 1999 and is expected to zoom up another 40% by 2019, the agency said.

I am having a hard time imaging just how massive that is — 26 billion pounds of clothes in a heap at the dump. However, we look at it, it’s not a pretty picture. And it’s not just the massive mound of waste that’s bothersome, it’s all the needless acts of commerce that lead to it. Sure, Wal-Mart has cheap clothes, but are they any good? Will you be wearing that Made-in-China shirt six months from now?

The newspaper points to Yerdle (why shop when you can share?), a website launched during last year’s Black Friday shopping swarm, as one possible alternative to the dump, or a second hand store.

Members use the platform to offer underutilized goods — clothing, electronics, even pianos — to friends and acquaintances free of charge. The site has 18,000 participants so far, is less anonymous than Craigslist and more eco-minded than Facebook.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.