Paper straws are gross. If we were to poll it, I think we would find that most people would agree with me on that point. It’s not exactly a controversial or highly contested argument. They’re a bit useless and really shouldn’t exist. If you’re going to use a straw, use a plastic one. Or better yet, don’t use one at all.
What might cause more of a stir is the statement that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to buy clothes from shops like Penneys.
Here’s why. Nowadays, there’s a lot of pressure to boycott the big brands and stick to local, second-hand, sustainable shops. In an ideal world, this would be an easy task to accomplish. However, it poses to be a much trickier and more complex issue.
Firstly, the problem is overconsumption. Our wardrobes aren’t what they once were. They’re not equipped for the seasonal changes and often aren’t actually functional in being able to form multiple outfits from a few pieces of clothing.
Fast fashion is causing the feeling of constantly needing to swap in and out of the ever-revolving door through which trends come and go.
Ideally, we would be able to buy all our clothes sustainably and not feel the need to rotate our outfits on such a fast-paced roster.
Secondly, the life cycle of second-hand stores relies on the fact that people are buying clothes new and discarding them in good enough condition for them to be resold. These people buy large amounts of clothing that they don’t wear more than once and then donate their clothes as a scapegoat to absolve them of responsibility for their production of waste.
Because of this, second-hand stores now carry items from Shein that are barely below the low price that they were bought for.
This leads me on to my next point, that when you buy second-hand, often you end up with pieces that are either poor quality, ill fitting, or just not quite what you wanted.
There’s also the fact that we’re currently seeing the gentrification of second-hand stores happen in real time. The low affordable prices that served as an essential service to lower income families are now matching prices of new in-store clothes. Second-hand clothing becoming a trend has led to the mark-up prices which we see in the specialised vintage stores.
Identity is so closely linked to your physical presentation which speaks of your character and self. It matters how you dress and what you wear. Clothes have always been an outwards expression of ourselves. But with sustainability in mind, there is a sense of responsibility that is now heavily weighted on the choices that we make.
There’s a duality to it. We deserve to enjoy our clothes and feel good about ourselves. But we also should be questioning where our clothes are coming from and where they’re going.
As a student, if you’re trying your best then that’s already more than most. Nothing will change overnight if you decide to use a paper straw instead of a plastic one. Bit by bit we’ll get there, but not by placing a disproportionately weighted burden of guilt on the shoulders of individuals who have minimal impact.