Ohio Valley Goodwill Industries
Serving Greater Cincinnati

5 Surprising Facts About Sustainable Fashion

Did you know? The fashion industry is the second-largest polluter in the world, after the oil industry. Not only does producing clothing require tons of energy, water, and other resources, but it also results in tons of harmful waste. It’s estimated that textiles make up 5% of all landfill space in the United States. That means the average American throws away more than 80 pounds of clothing every year!

Graphic with text: Did you know? Americans throw away 81 pounds of clothing a year

Clothing Reuse

Want to learn more about the impact of fashion on the environment? Here are some facts that may surprise you:

Fact #1: Our landfills are full of textile waste

According to the most recent EPA statistics, Americans created more than 16 million tons of textile waste in 2017. Of this total, 11 million tons ended up in landfills instead of being recycled or reused. While food trash takes only a few hours or days to decompose, clothing can sit in landfills for years. Synthetic fabrics like polyester, lycra, and nylon can take 30 to 40 years to break down fully. That’s a great reason to donate used clothing and purchase gently-owned items instead of buying brand-new from a traditional retailer!


Fact #2: It can take more than 700 gallons of water to make a single t-shirt

It takes a lot of water to grow, manufacture, transport, and wash cotton, which is one of the most popular fabrics used in today’s clothing. It’s estimated that producing one pound of cotton takes 1,320 gallons of water. That equals over 700 gallons for just one t-shirt! Extending the lifecycle of clothing, especially cotton clothing, can reduce your total water footprint and help protect the environment.

Fact #3: The average lifetime of a clothing item is about 3 years

Fast fashion is a term used to describe new styles of clothing that are manufactured quickly and sold at very low prices. While fast fashion makes clothing affordable for consumers, it comes at a big cost to the environment. Trendy and cheaply-made clothing has a short lifespan in people’s closets, often leading to more clothes ending up in landfills.


White box with clothing inside and 'donations' written on front

Donations box

Fact #4: Clothing and textiles are almost 100% recyclable


Clothing and other textiles can be recycled and used for a variety of other purposes, from carpet to home insulation to ” new” fabric made from the clothing’s fibers. It doesn’t matter if the clothing has rips or tears “” it can almost always be converted into something else. Because textiles do not degrade easily, they should not be disposed of in the garbage. Donate your used clothing to Goodwill instead!

Fact #5: It’s easy to shop more sustainably

The harmful cycle of clothing waste can be broken. We can all work to reduce textile waste and lower the impact the fashion industry has on our planet by shopping sustainably and recycling clothing responsibly.

Graphic with Text: Reuse, Upcycle, Sustain

Reuse with Goodwill!

One of the best ways to buy more sustainably is by choosing to shop at secondhand stores, or thrift stores, over traditional retailers. Ohio Valley Goodwill is your go-to for sustainable, affordable secondhand shopping. We sell gently-used clothing, accessories, and home goods at affordable prices so you can save money while helping the planet!

If you have clothes you don’t want or need anymore, give them a new life and donate to Goodwill! Your donations are sold in our stores for affordable prices, and anything that cannot be resold is recycled responsibly. For more than a century, we have been committed to environmental stewardship and diverting reusable materials from area landfills.

Support Goodwill’s sustainability efforts by shopping at our network of retail stores or donating your gently-used items! Find your nearest retail store or donation site today.