But why? Fashion, and the expectations that come with it, have steadily transformed; previously, the emphasis was on to buy little but well (the idea that you would buy less but higher quality items that would last a lifetime). But now, high street fashion is centred around having huge variety in your wardrobe, which you can’t achieve unless you buy frequently but affordably.
2. On average, we only wear a garment 7 times before throwing it away.
The market has met this demand for quantity over quality; garment prices have sharply dropped off over the past two decades as retailers have found more and more ways to cut manufacturing corners to save on the pennies. Wasting clothes has become commonplace as we canafford to replace them regularly as they’ve become cheaper. However, these cut corners have meant more waste, more pollution, and a worse impact on the Earth.
That’s about the weight of a baby rhino, and only 15% of that is typically recycled or donated. Again, something that has changed over time, families would traditionally mend clothes multiple times before throwing them away – a sewing kit was always found at home. The ‘budget clothing’ outlets have encouraged this trend as it’s become more economical to buy new rather than to fix old.
Tip: DownloadGone For Good; the app that collects your unwanted clothes (amongst other things) and donates them to charity – for free!
Two other facts about synthetic fibres; (1) they’re in 72% of our clothing and (2) they’re not biodegradable. It’s startling to think that a t-shirt you threw out could outlive you three times over due to its material.
Tip: Check the label on the clothes you buy to reduce the percentage of synthetic fibres in your wardrobe.
52 micro-collections equate to 80 billion garments produced, just every year. The constant changing fashions and new releases places a huge pressure on consumers that shouldn’t be underestimated; the commercial need to keep up with the on-rush of new designs feeds into a more wasteful culture.
Engaging in a sustainable approach to apparel isn’t solely about the protecting environment. Garment production can be a cruel industry, as retailers don’t just cut costs when it comes to materials but also with their staff welfare.
Tip: Research your favourite brands and examine their manufacturing methods.Sustain You Style is a fantastic resource for suggesting sustainable brands, both from an environmental and staff welfare perspective.
But the two aren’t entirely separate. In fact, both the clothing and the oil industry feed into one another. For example, 70 billion oil barrels are used every year in polyester production; that is about the same contained in the Permian Base (known as “one of the most prolific oil […] basins in the United States”).
That’s equivalent to 2,700 litres. Presuming everyone does (or should) drink 2 litres per day, the daily water intake of 1,350 people in pumped into one ton of fabric. Water is the essential ingredient that doesn’t show up on a label but is used in huge quantities by the clothing industry.
Tip: Research into theBetter Cotton Initiative; the global programme which reaches 5 million farmers and supports the reduction in water required to produce cotton.
What does soil have to do with fashion? A huge amount! Just a few examples; cashmere goats and sheep graze on pastures, chemicals need to be grown to produce cotton, and wood-based materials like rayon means devastating deforestation.
For the past few years, the focus has always been on other polluting factors such as electricity, food, and now plastic. The impacts of the clothing industry has been below the surface but still causing damage. Now the word is out and, as the general public becomes more and more aware of its impact, we all have a responsibility to make change where we can to become more sustainable, and kinder to our planet.
The Good News
Remember, these statistics remain the same if nothing changes. 73% of millennials are willing to spend more to buy sustainable goods which means the future is bright if we make a change. With the right information, the consumer can be equipped to make more informed choices in the marketplace and rally their retailers to be more environmental in their processes.
What can I do?
Written by Charlotte Mason
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