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Some back-to-school clothes aren't good for the planet. Here’s a better option.

The most sustainable clothes are the ones that already exist.

Some back-to-school clothes aren't good for the planet. Here’s a better option.
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Savers

There are three constants in late summer life.

One: It’s impossible to apply sunscreen without missing a spot. Two: S'mores that fall in the campfire for a few seconds just taste better. Three: Nothing is a bigger adrenaline hit than back-to-school shopping.

Instantly iconic. GIF from "Clueless."


Thanks to the internet and fast-fashion outlets, buying stylish new clothes on the cheap is easier than ever before. Designs that used to march down the runway a year before they’d show up in your local department store are now being churned out for sale in just a few weeks. Keeping people looking Instagram-worthy is a $3 trillion-dollar industry that’s growing every year.

Fast fashion gives a quick hit, but it’s also fueling some less-than-sustainable habits.

Pictured: Not a good look. Image via Savers.

The truth is super-cheap, fast fashion comes with big environmental price tags. As a society, we’re buying a lot, then throwing much of it away, and that’s really adding up.

Our passion for fashion has made the clothing industry one of the world’s biggest polluters. In 2013 alone, Americans threw away 15.13 million tons of textile waste.

But landfills aren’t the only concern. The clothing industry also uses a shocking amount of water. Making a single cotton T-shirt can consume up to 700 gallons of water. A new pair of jeans can consume 2,900 gallons of water. With record global temperatures that just keep increasing and climate change fueling extreme long-lasting droughts, being smarter about water is about to become even more important than it already is.

Being more careful about our clothing purchases can create a ripple effect, conserving millions of gallons of water that can be used for other purposes, like drinking water or sustainable agriculture.

One of the easiest ways to start making mindful choices is to buy thrifted clothes.

Enter Savers, one of the world’s leading textile recyclers. Through its unique business model, Savers is keeping over 650 million pounds of reusable items out of landfills annually. This year they’re stepping up even further: encouraging people to really think about the life cycle of their clothes and how that affects the rest of the world.

Fashionable fabric fountains in Toronto's Dundas Square. Image via Savers.

Earlier this month, Savers installed a beautiful and surprising art installation in Toronto’s bustling Dundas Square, transforming a public water fountain into one made of clothes.

The installation was meant to inform people about the water that goes into making their clothes. It really got people thinking.

(After checking out this neat video, be sure to scroll down for more information about how you can get involved!)

Its message was loud and clear.

Thousands of Torontonians viewed the installation, and more than 1,000 who walked by were inspired to take a simple next step in reducing their fashion footprint: "giving a shirt" and committing to making their next T-shirt purchase a thrifted one.

It's time to give a shirt about textile waste. Image via Savers.

Folks still doing their back-to-school shopping can help Savers, too!

This back-to-school season, Savers is hoping to get 1 million people to "Give a Sh!rt" about their clothing footprint through one simple ask: replacing one new tee purchase with a thrifted one.

If they do, they say it’ll be the equivalent of offsetting over 1,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools full of water.

There are plenty of wonderful clothes to be found at local thrift stores, and none of them come with extra fashion footprint of new clothes. Plus, brand-new is relative. It can also mean brand-new-to-you!

Fast fashion is easy and addictive. But like any bad habit, it’s one we have to break. Not just for our closets, but also for our planet.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.