I lock my bicycle to the bent bus stop sign and walk up to what once was the CVS. I open the door, grab a cart, and take a look around. The harsh fluorescent bulbs illuminate old fabric donated by kind people. Don’t know where I am? It’s the neighborhood Goodwill.
I wiggle my cart through the congested aisles as I sing to the fifties music humming through the speakers. I go through each rack item by item looking for a lost treasure. I find an old flannel, men’s large, worn on the elbows. I wonder who it once kept warm on a chilly fall day or on a long train ride home. I wonder how it wound up on a crowded rack at Goodwill.
That’s the funny thing about Goodwill, every article of clothing has a story all its own, though one can only guess what that story is. Unlike a book, the story isn’t in print; it is between every thread holding it together. My clothes are wearable stories being added daily. As I live, so does that abandoned shirt I am about to buy.
I recycle cans and bottles, but I also recycle history and memories. I bring the past into the future by reusing the fabric of yesterday. In this I am protecting the resources of today.
When someone first thinks sustainability and green living, clothes aren’t typically the first thing that comes to mind. Maybe solar panels and reusable shopping bags are the poster children for eco-friendliness, but they are certainly not the only ways to save the planet.
The machines and vehicles required to make and ship these clothes emit pollution. Most of the clothes we wear in the United States are not made here – they are shipped in from all over the world. But Goodwill attire is used; it was already made and shipped.
Americans throw away clothes every day. As I hunt through racks at the Goodwill, I am doing my part to save these treasures from landfills. Many companies today even make low-quality clothes that are supposed to be thrown away at the end of the season. With clothes at the Goodwill this isn’t the case. The worn flannel in my cart must be at least twenty years old and still has years of life to go, life it can continue as mine.
I eventually find my way to check-out. Today I got not only the shirt but a sweater and a nice paperback. I put all my pre-loved articles in my old Jansport backpack and walk outside into a still beautiful world. Riding my bike home I am satisfied that I can preserve some of this planet’s resources, as well as its memories.