British Columbia

Why this university student hasn't bought any new clothes in 4 years

Four years ago, Vancouver resident Ella Kim-Marriott challenged herself to not buy any new clothing. Her goal was to think more about her environmental footprint. 

'There's a trend of moving toward pro-ecological behaviour,' says 20-year-old UBC student

Ella Kim-Marriott says she has not bought a new item of clothing in four years. (Submitted by Ella Kim-Marriott)

Four years ago, Vancouver resident Ella Kim-Marriott challenged herself to not buy any new clothing. Her goal was to think more about her environmental footprint, while shopping more sustainably and ethically. 

Now, the 20-year-old University of British Columbia student says that challenge has become a way of life for her. 

"I did it for a full year and then I realized there was no way I was going back to buying any fast fashion," Kim-Marriott said. 

"It was really easy and it really wasn't that big of a sacrifice for me."

Fast fashion is often defined as cheap and trendy clothing of the moment, usually found in big chain clothing stores.

According to a Metro Vancouver waste study, clothing makes up about half of all textile waste in landfills; that is equivalent to 44 T-shirts per person per year. Discarded clothing leaks chemicals and dyes into the environment.

"We have to throw out billions of dollars worth of clothes every year. There's this idea that every single week or month is a new season. All of last season's stuff gets thrown out so then that leads to us having way more than we could ever need," said Kim-Marriott.

Some of Ella Kim-Marriott's second-hand wardrobe. (Submitted by Ella Kim-Marriott)

The cost

While thrift shopping was familiar to Kim-Marriott because she came from a low-income family, she says she still bought fast fashion until Grade 10. That was the year she watched the documentary The True Cost, about production in the fashion industry. 

"It really showed every aspect of how fast fashion is really not sustainable or ethical for anyone involved. So that completely changed my perspective on it."

The True Cost focuses on the factories in developing countries to which big-name brands like Forever 21 and H&M outsource clothing manufacturing. Many of those factories make clothes cheaply and employees do not receive fair wages and have to work in poor conditions, says Kim-Marriott. 

"Then they send a lot of those clothes back over there and they end up like in the landfills or in the oceans there," she said.

"So it's kind of like an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of thing where here we don't really see the effects of fast fashion."

Kim-Marriott now works at package-free grocery store Nada in Vancouver and says that experience has taught her it's easier to reduce waste than people might think. She studies over-consumption topics related to sociology and geography at UBC and says the issue is constantly on her mind. 

Ella Kim-Marriott says she tries to stick to a list when she shops for second-hand clothing. (Submitted by Ella Kim-Marriott)

Out with the new, in with the old

Kim-Marriott says she's increasingly impressed with how young people are jumping on the thrift shopping bandwagon.

"There's a trend of moving toward pro-ecological behaviour. When I was in elementary school, I was starting to think about the ozone layer, climate change and recycling, but I didn't really know the bigger picture of it. And it wasn't really something that was being taught to us."

Kim-Marriott hopes sustainable shopping becomes not simply a trend, but a way of life for more people.

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