We share one small closet, and while I'll admit that I do encroach a bit onto his side, I'm no clothes horse. I love interesting, colorful clothes and am intrigued by fashion, but unfortunately (or fortunately, maybe) I really hate shopping, so there's not actually much of interest in there. With one exception: the disproportionate number of t-shirts. A runner for over a quarter of a century now, it's hard to even guess how many race t-shirts I've acquired in my lifetime. My normal routine is to wear them a few times on a run or to the gym, and then if I don't really love how they feel (and I usually don't), I donate them to my local thrift shop before they become too ragged or sweat-stained for someone else to be able to use them. Of course, there have been many special runs through the years, the t-shirts from which I've hung onto for sentimental reasons, and so a collection has inadvertently developed over time.
|The running shirts that I was able to grab quickly from my closet, for demonstrative |
purposes. There are probably actually twice as many packed away in there.
I've never given much thought to any of this. Like most runners, I dig eagerly into the bag to see what the t-shirt looks like when I pick up my race packet. But no matter how much I like it, I rarely feel compelled to hang onto it. I donate it to charity and assume that it moves on to serve some other purpose, not realizing that I'm actually contributing to a serious global problem.
I recently read an interesting article: The Afterlife of Cheap Clothes (2012). I recommend that you give it a read, but in case you don't, here's the bottom line: Our consumption of inexpensive clothing has created a glut of textile waste that overburdens our domestic charities, who cannot process and sell the volume of donated clothing they receive. Some of it gets recycled, and the rest is shipped and sold overseas to markets that no longer have a strong demand for our cheaply-made throwaways. Even the poorest of the poor don't want or need this stuff. So what if we just stopped making it?
There have been a few races I've entered where I've been given a choice to decline the t-shirt, and pay a lower entry fee (which I always do). I'd love to see more race directors providing us with this option, and more runners thinking twice about acquiring more things that they don't need. We have our finish times, our race memories and stories, and probably some photos. That seems like plenty. I'm not looking to start a revolution here, but I will start voicing this preference to the organizers of the events in which I participate. I will start trying to get the most out of the t-shirts that I do get stuck with, and buying fewer new running shirts. And most difficult of all, I will try my hardest to resist that $7 tank top that I don't really need (even though it's really cute) the next time I'm distracted by the women's clothing section at Target. Because I really only went in there for toothpaste anyway.