By Ariel Marantz, Associate, Hazon Seal of Sustainability
We are in an era of “fast fashion”, defined as “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends” (Waste Advantage Magazine). What effect does buying and quickly discarding apparel have on our Earth? Hold onto your socks….
According to Forbes’ Making Climate Change Fashionable – The Garment Industry Takes on Global Warming, the clothing industry follows oil as the second largest industrial polluter, and is the second largest polluter of freshwater resources on Earth. It makes up 10% of ALL carbon emissions! What can we do to help?
Here are some tips: Go through your entire closet to see what you already own. If you need something else, borrow from a friend or swap your clothing with theirs. When you want to buy, buy from a thrift store. And if you choose to buy elsewhere, only opt for natural materials.
Why? According to Forbes, synthetic fibers emit potent gases that contribute to climate change such as N20, which is 300X worse for the Earth than CO2 is. Plus, the production of these synthetic fibers results in over 70 million trees cut down annually. Cotton (when not organic) is the biggest pesticide-consuming crop (using 11% of all pesticides and 24% of all insecticides). And polyester, which we use more than any other fiber, uses up 70 MILLION barrels of oil each year and takes 200 YEARS to break down in a landfill (source: Forbes, 2015).
The damage isn’t limited to when we buy or discard our barely-worn garment, but just washing clothing with these fibers hurts our environment.Specifically, 85% of ALL human-made material by our ocean shores comes from our washing machines when we wash these synthetic items (source: Forbes, 2015).
When brands try to keep up with our latest trends, this comes at a price for our environment – and for ourselves! The idea that we constantly need the latest trend is damaging for our self-esteem and makes us want what we don’t have. We also use up Earth’s resources by buying cheap items that don’t last, and that we don’t intend to wear for long. The Forbes article notes that we typically wear ‘fast fashion’ items less than 5 times.
Next time you decide that you need more clothing, take another look at your closet. Second-hand shopping and buying from eco-conscious companies selling organic materials are the best purchases that you can make, if you need to make any. Buy what you see yourself wearing for 10 years, not wearing 10 times. Look out for companies that “greenwash” – pretend to be eco-friendly but are indeed contributing to the problem on a massive scale! Opt for clothing made from all natural materials, such as organic cotton or wool, which is healthier for our skin and for the planet. Finally, if you’re done with an item – donate it, gift it, textile recycle it, or sell it to a thrift shop – but do not place it in a landfill! Take a look at this website to find out how to recycle old clothing including a list of stores that have recycle programs for different types of clothes.
Shop consciously to feel beautiful while keeping our planet beautiful!
For bonus points, read on here to learn about using all natural-detergents, air-drying clothing, and finding a washing machine that is the best for the environment. Some use more water than others – they are not made equal!