NEC’s Coastal Cleanup Day Says NO to Fast Fashion

Tiffany Perez, Casey Cruikshank, and Chelsea Pullium display some of the t-shirts donated for Coastal Cleanup Day.

If you’ve been following the NEC’s updates about this year’s Coastal Cleanup Day then you’re aware that there are some big exciting changes in the works as we put effort into eliminating additional waste for and during the event. One aspect of this relates to our Coastal Cleanup Day t-shirts.

In previous years, we have received t-shirts supplied for free from the California Coastal Commission featuring artwork and sponsors for the statewide cleanup. As part of our focus this year on zero waste education, we have decided to go a different route and source and upcycle shirts locally instead of supporting “fast fashion.”

In the United States alone, 21 billion pounds of textiles are dumped into landfills every year. The fast fashion industry, which encourages cheap clothing intended to be discarded quickly, is second only to oil as the world’s largest polluter. Elizabeth Segran from Fast Company writes “the fashion industry currently relies on 98 million tons of oil to make synthetic fibers, contributes to 20 percent of the worlds water pollution thanks to toxic dyes, and generates 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases.”  The fast fashion industry also supports a system of poverty for its workers—requiring extremely long hours for minimal pay while being exposed to unsafe production processes, dangerous conditions and hazardous substances.

Rather than using new shirts, we found previously-owned t-shirts locally. Over the last few months, we asked for donations from local thrift stores and have received an overwhelming amount of support.  Our goal was to obtain 100 plain, solid-color t-shirts, but to our great surprise we have collected over 165 so far—with many thrift shops continuing to collect shirts for us through the month of July. We want to send a huge thank you to the Rescue Mission, American Cancer Society, Tailwaggers, and Angels of Hope thrift stores and to the Clothing Dock for generously donating enough shirts to make our zero waste dreams come true!

We held a contest to find an artist to create a logo for Humboldt County’s first ever Zero Waste Coastal Cleanup Day. We are so excited to present the winning local artist Mir De Silva and her design! Check out our Zero Waste Coastal Cleanup Day article to see the design and her artist statement.

We also found local printing for our shirts. Michael Barker, the owner of Maverick + Haywood (formerly known as Provolt Design) is sponsoring our event by donating his time and ink to get our shirts printed.  We are extremely thankful for all of the support from local businesses who are interested in helping us reduce waste in our community!

The best way to avoid being a fast fashion contributor is to buy used instead of new. If you absolutely must buy new, always read labels, steer toward sustainable fabrics, and purchase for quality rather than quantity. Sustainable clothing can be more expensive but, if you buy right, it has a much longer life than the cheaper alternative.

In addition to thrifting clothing, one of my favorite ways to avoid fast fashion is by participating in clothing swaps with friends, neighbors, or community groups. Not only are the clothes free, but it also provides an opportunity to interact with your community and meet new friends while “shopping.”

If you’re interested in learning more about transitioning away from fast fashion, visit for more tips and tricks.