When it began in 1970, Earth Day’s mission was to diversify, educate, and activate the environmental movement worldwide – an imperative that we know is more important today than ever. According to EarthDay.org, April 22nd is a time to recognize climate change and challenge us to see environmental issues as “a pressing global security threat, one that threatens everyone and everything but particularly our most vulnerable people and places.”
Here at The Salvation Army Thrift Store, National Recycling Operations, caring for our planet and our communities is at the heart of everything we do. We see first-hand that current production, distribution, and consumption systems result in large amounts of non-renewable resources being extracted to produce clothes that are often disposed of in under a year. One garbage truck of clothes is sent to landfill or burned every second across the globe, where it can last up to 200 years.
The Salvation Army Thrift Store is proud to be a part of the solution alongside our guests, donors, and community partners. Less than 5% of all textiles donated to us make their way to landfill, meaning that 95% of donated goods are empowered to make a local impact through our over 100 Thrift Stores across the country or our ethical recycling suppliers. We diverted over 39 million kilograms of used clothing, household items, and furniture from local landfills in fiscal year 2019–20 – the equivalent of 12 NASA Saturn V Rockets that propelled humans to the moon!
As Tonny Colyn, National Director of Business Development and Sustainability explains, every day is Earth Day at The Salvation Army Thrift Store. “People don’t always think of thrift as a green initiative, which is why we want to talk about it throughout April and not just on Earth Day,” says Colyn. “Sometimes it feels like the environmental crisis is so big that we can’t do anything about it, but by making that shift to thrift in our own way we can each individually contribute and make a collective impact.”
As awareness about the environmental toll of producing, buying, and discarding items grows, non-profit thrift stores are emerging as a holistic option to reduce environmental strain, provide affordable options, and support community programs and services. But with 85% of all textiles from the fashion industry ending up in landfill, there is still much room for growth in the amount of clothing being donated rather than dumped.
“We collect, sort, give, sell, and recycle,” says Colyn. “It’s because of our recycling efforts that we can take all clean and dry textiles, regardless of resale condition. We are constantly looking at how we can give the best second life possible to donations so that we can support our communities and our environment, while also supporting a number of innovation projects with community partners to find even better end-of-life solutions for textiles.”
One of these innovators is Rianna Ford, who grew up with the mindset that everyone plays a part in sustainability thanks to a mother who gardens and a father who farms. Rianna’s fledgling clothing line, MINES, is an upcycling slow fashion brand that gets its name from Jamaica’s national motto, ‘Out of Many, One People.’ “The pluralized name speaks to the concept that ‘out of many, this is mine,’” says Ford. “Even though the garment is yours it has come from so many others and been a part of many other people. It’s yours but it’s ours and it’s MINES.”
Sustainability is the brand’s theme, and Rianna’s goal is to create garments without using anything other than used clothing. Her first pair of pants were created using damaged shirts that had been donated to The Salvation Army Thrift Store’s Distribution and Recycling Centre. Working with FX Design, a Toronto-based production house, Rianna created a template, sorted the donated shirts, cut them into squares and used patchwork to create the final product. Eventually, Rianna envisions having her own warehouse filled with items that are not sellable by thrift stores that she can upcycle into beautiful, sustainable garments.
“I love being able to mend all these different pieces of clothing together to help reduce overproduction and curb fast fashion,” says Ford. “Thrift stores are phenomenal because they are a great way to keep the cycle of re-use going. I have always loved thrifting and finding one-of-a-kind items, and I love that now I can use MINES to elevate what others might consider unusable and turn it into something new.”
From upcycling, to shopping, to donating, making the shift to thrift in all its forms is a great way to celebrate why #EarthLovesThrift. Find your closest store here, get inspired with upcycling DIYs here, and learn more about Earth Day here.
Happy Earth Day 2021!