Krista and I have been spending time looking at different areas of our lives where we can take personal action and help the planet. The recent IPCC Report on climate change was fairly overwhelming, so we wanted to check in and dive a little deeper on a few areas.
We’ve looked at a few areas of our lives so far, such as our food choices, energy choices, and even our internet use choices. This week I’m looking at how our clothing helps (or harms) the planet and some choices we can make.
The Problem with Fashion
The fast fashion industry has sold us on the idea that we constantly need new items in our closets and an updated wardrobe every week. With such easy access to cheap and changing fashions, it became a fashion faux pas to wear an outfit more than once.
The entire concept of fast fashion is to make fashion trends quickly and to make them available for cheap prices. While the cost on our pocket books is low, the cost on the planet from this cycle of behaviour is high.
Fast Fashion Harms our Planet
There are a ton of statistics out there outlining the travesty that is the fashion industry. It can be no surprise, however, that an industry whose survival is based on continual consumption would produce waste and harm our planet.
A few realities of this harm to our planet are:
1. Studies estimate that two-thirds of China’s rivers and lakes have been polluted by textile factories.
2. Greenhouse gas emissions from textile production is more than the total emissions of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
3. Microplastics are a major source of ocean pollution and are causing major damage to marine life. 1/4 of microplastics in the ocean come from synthetic textiles.
Fast Fashion Harms People
Fast fashion is often made not only at the expense of the environment, but also the expense of labourers who make the clothes. Intersectional Environmentalism has taught us that social justice has to be a part of our environmental conversations.
Consider this: A living wage is a recognized human right, yet it is denied to most of the estimated 80 million workers in the global fashion industry.
When we consider that a fast fashion brand sells a t-shirt for under $5, it makes sense that they will cut their costs in other areas. This tends to be at the expense of their garment workers. Not only are garment workers paid very little, but they are forced to work in sub-par conditions.
In 2013, over 1,100 people died and approximaately 2,500 were injured in the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory. This tragedy exposed the horrible working conditions garment workers were subjected to and launched the #whomademyclothes movement. This tragedy happened 8 years ago, but poor working conditions and low wages are still a reality today.
For example, in June 2020, Boohoo Group and others were exposed for using a UK factory in Leicester with poor working conditions that exposed workers to Covid-19 and paid workers only 2-3 GBP/hour. Boohoo Group, the main clothing company using this factory, has been repeatedly asked to improve working conditions for their factory workers but have been non compliant.
5 Easy Changes so Your Clothing Helps the Planet
Shopping sustainable clothing brands is a great thing, but I want to look at some actionable ideas that don’t cost money (or at least don’t cost a lot).
1. Be an outfit repeater
Wear your clothes longer. Proudly embrace and love your wardrobe. Mix and match your items. Wear that flattering outfit again. And again. Studies estimate that the average garment is only worn 10 times before it’s tossed. Don’t be average.
2. Buy less
A large part of a sustainable lifestyle is knowing when to say no to a purchase. Fast fashion has sold us on the idea that we need to continuously be updating our wardrobe, but this is not true! Shop your own closet before heading to the store and see if you can skip a purchase all together. Wearing your own clothing helps the planet more than going out and buying new items–even if those items are sustainable.
3. Buy second hand
If you do need to buy new clothes, try shopping second hand. From thrift stores to eBay, the options for buying second-hand clothing are numerous. Give new life to some pre-loved fashion and extend the life of these garments. One garbage truck of textiles ends up in the landfill every second. Buying second hand clothes keeps items out of landfills and reduces the environmental impact of the garment.
4. Wash your clothes less (and hang them to dry)
Frequently laundering your clothes will not only cause them to wear out, but will also release microfibers into our waterways and environment. Washing synthetic fibers is a known cause of microplastics that are found in our oceans. Even natural textiles are known to release microfibers that can be damaging to our environment when tumble dried. Wash your clothes less to keep them in better shape and to save the planet from microplastics.
5. Repair instead of replace
Don’t be scared of a fabric tear or a loose button. Get out a needle and thread and mend your garments instead of tossing them. If your sewing skills are non-existent, check with friends or a local tailor. Extending the life of your clothes by just three months significantly decreases that garment’s carbon footprint. Lowering your garments carbon footprint ensures your clothing helps our planet.
[Related: Visible Mending: What’s Old Can be New Again]
Read More About How your Clothing Helps the Planet
We’ve talked a lot about clothing on our blog and the reason for that is your clothing choices matter. From the content of our clothing’s fabric to how the clothing is made and an abundance other factors, our clothing helps or hurts the planet.
Read more about the topics by checking out these posts:
Plastic in our Clothing
In this post we look at different types of fabrics, at how plastic sneaks into our clothing, and what we can do about it. Paying attention to different types of textiles and plastic content is a choice you can make to ensure your clothing helps the planet. Find the post here: Plastic in our Clothing
Sustainable Fashion Series
In this series of posts, we not only look at some facts about fast fashion, but also some amazing sustainable clothing brands. We interview the founders of small start ups and established brands, such as Akinda Co and fairechild, all of whom are trying to make our clothing choices better for the earth. Shopping sustainable brands is a great way to ensure your clothing helps the planet. Find the series here: Sustainable Fashion Series
Plastic Free Laundry Routine
In this post we look at how to care for your clothes in a sustainable way. Plastic seems to appear everywhere in our households and the laundry room is no exception. There are choices we can make to reduce plastic in our laundry routines and make better choices for the environment. Find the post here: Plastic Free Laundry Routine
What Will You do Next?
While fashion can be a huge problem for the planet, our personal clothing choices are within our control. It is possible that our clothing helps the planet if we pay attention to our actions.
What clothing choices do you make to ensure your clothing helps instead of harms the planet?