NOT SO FAST, FAST FASHION
With holiday mania fast approaching, many of us (myself included) are hurrying to the box stores and amazon to fulfill wish lists of loved ones. Clothing is one of my favorite gifts to give and receive, but lately, as I walk through the aisles of department stores, I find myself thinking, why are these clothes so cheap? How do they have racks and racks of similar items in endless sizes? Can this be good for our planet? The answer, no. “Fast-fashion,” as it’s called in the industry, has become a significant polluter and is contributing to global warming at an alarming rate. It’s hard to avoid the temptation of paying 50% less for a pair of pants, but consider the following before you do.
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
The textile industry is one of the biggest water wasters in the industrial world today. In perspective, the fashion industry uses 1/10th of all the water used by industrial factories. While it takes gallons of water to produce just one shirt, the water is mixed with chemicals to create a toxic watershed. This water is tough to clean and make safe again; many factories have been moved overseas to developing countries without strict environmental regulations. Resulting in toxic water runoff to our oceans.
Topping the hit list again for the worst environment material is plastic. There is no surprise there; however, the unexpected news is that 35% of all microplastics that make their way into our oceans come from synthetic fabrics used to make inexpensive clothing. This isn’t plastic that can end up in your curbside recycling. In addition, these polyester fibers release more carbon emissions than cotton. They end up in our air, our oceans, and our landfills. As the plastic finally breaks down, it creates a toxic substance, traces of which have been found in the seafood we eat.
THE MORE CLOTHES, THE BETTER…RIGHT?
We’re all guilty of it, a big night out, we want a new outfit. On our first day at a new job or a new school, we need something different to wear. However, our dependence on the convenience of affordable clothing and our overconsumption has led to 62 million metric tons of apparel being consumed each year globally. Additionally, because of the lower quality of these fashions, they don’t last, and the majority end up hauled to a landfill rather than recycled at a donation site. These clothes are moved to an incinerator from the landfill, and more poisonous gasses enter our environment.
LISTEN TO OUR TREES
Rayon, viscose, and modal are the wrinkle-free solution to cotton. People often choose these fabrics because they are less expensive and comfortable. However, every year, thousands of rainforest hectares are cleared to make room for the trees needed to make these wood-based fabrics. This deforestation of the rainforests is threatening the ecosystem.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
There are many ways to make your wardrobe more ethical and sustainable. First, shop your closet. Take a look at what you already have and see if you can wear it in a different way that looks fresh and exciting. Get thrifty; thrift stores are a great way to upcycle clothes that you are done with; just because they aren’t your favorite doesn’t mean someone else won’t love them. Shop sustainable, many brands commit to using sustainable materials in their clothing and shipping practices. Do a little research before you buy – you may realize you don’t need that new shirt after all.