A second life for clothes: Colombia and Germany

A silver rack with men's plaid shirts on hangers. Photo by Waldemar on Unsplash.

The first floor at Iglesia Menonita Teusaquillo in Bogota, Colombia, is stocked with clothes, shoes, furniture, beds and other second-hand items for sale.

“What it is is a big garage sale that lasts through a large part of the year,” said Grace Morillo, a member of the church’s creation care group.

The shop, named Cachimenos, is run by the church and raises funds for a soup kitchen for children in a disadvantaged neighborhood.

Although the project wasn’t originally started by the church’s creation care group, Pablo Stucky, one of the group’s members, said, “It’s important to us because it’s a way to reuse, which is one of our themes.”

Selling items for reuse helps reduce CO2 emissions from the extraction of materials and the production of new items. It also keeps materials out of landfills and incinerators where they cause pollution and emit greenhouse gasses.

A BBC article reported that the global clothing industry is responsible for about 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and 20 percent of all wastewater.

Environmental impacts occur at every stage in a garment’s lifecycle, from the production and processing of the fiber, to packaging and transporting the materials and end product, to washing the garment and finally disposing of it.

Clothing made out of polyester (plastic) has double the carbon footprint of cotton-based clothes. Currently, 65% of clothing produced is polyester-based, the article reported, and each year, 70 million barrels of oil are used for clothing worldwide.

Many of the materials used in clothes are recyclable, but facilities for processing them are still very limited.

The simplest way to lower the carbon footprint of clothing, the article said, is to wear it more, and pass it on to others instead of throwing it away.

The Cachimenos shop in Bogota helps people do just that. So does a thrift shop run by the Mennonite Church of Enkenbach in Germany.

Second-Hand-Lädchen has been operating in Enkenbach since 2009. It relies on donations from church members and the community and the profit is donated to Mennonitische Hilfswerk, the German Mennonite aid agency, for projects in Ethiopia.

A video produced by the church for a workshop at the Mennonite World Conference gathering in Indonesia last summer, explains the vision behind the shop:

“Not only are we able to offer our community good quality clothing at inexpensive prices, but we hope to break the trend of always needing to buy the newest style. By doing so, we hope that resources around the world can be used more sparingly.”

This article is part of the Cross Pollinator series, originally published by Anabaptist Climate Collaborative.

Sierra Ross Richer

Sierra Ross Richer is a writer for the Cross Pollinator series.

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