Progress is slow, but it’s starting to be made, as small domestic incubator textile recycling and manufacturing businesses come into the market, noted Jones, an expert in corporate social responsibility, sustainability and ethical consumerism.
“It’s hard to constantly talk about the doomsday effects of fast fashion, so when you find a spark of hope that something good can come from it, that stands out,” said Clarke, who spent time in the foothills of Western North Carolina at Industrial Commons and its partners during a spring immersion trip in 2023. While there, Clarke was introduced to the Carolina Textile District and Material Return, two businesses focused on establishing sustainable and reliable domestic supply chains and the recycling of clean old socks to create new products, respectively.
“They are solution-focused and working to rebuild the economy in that area by finding ways to improve and support local industry,” she said.
On Mount St. James, roughly 10,000 pounds of clothing was collected in May 2023 when students moved out of dorms and apartments at the end of the spring semester. That material was donated to organizations that partner with thrift stores in the region and textile recyclers in the Northeast.
Follow the Material
Knowing where the materials are going is key and shopping local thrift stores is a good way to start, according to Nee, a sociology major. While donating materials makes consumers feel better about their choices, there is not an accurate understanding about the donation-based economy structure, according to Jones.
“The percentage of items recycled versus what is sent to the landfill is much smaller than many expect. The same goes for the amount of usable recyclable material,” he said.
After learning of the environmental impacts, Nee began researching the effects and started to notice how her patterns were contributing to the problem.
“By going to a thrift store, you’re doing your part to help the environment, save money and appreciate what is out there,” she said. With this in mind, Nee has established a business plan to create a small thrift store on campus. The initiative will partner with the semi-annual Her Campus pop-up thrifting event, with the plan to eventually become a working thrift store for the Holy Cross community and the neighborhoods around the campus.