The Impact of Your Wardrobe: Why Your Wardrobe Costs the Earth
I think everyone and their Granny have watched the recent Stacey Dooley documentary on the impact of fast fashion on the Earth and it's been an eye-opener for us all. Ever since starting my journey in cutting down on my plastic use, the concept of how unsustainable the fashion industry is has been looming over me and now I think it's time for me and everyone to face the facts - your wardrobe is costing the Earth.
What is actually happening?
The fashion industry is the 2nd most polluting industry after oil. Through overusing water, fossil fuels and toxic chemicals, including dyes. According to Fashion Revolution, if the fashion industry continues on its current path, it could use over 1/4 of the world's carbon budget by 2050.
From the factories to our wardrobes, our clothes have a huge impact on the environment. In the factories, thousands of litres of water go into producing items made out of cotton, which in some places has dried up rivers and vast water sources. Did you know that up to 2500 litres of water are required for 1 single cotton t-shirt. Toxic chemicals and dyes from the manufacturing process are dumped in near by rivers, polluting the towns' water sources and directly causing health problems for its citizens.
Cardigan - Vintage
T-Shirt Primark - Up to 2500 litres of water could have gone into the production of this t-shirt and it cost me a measly £3. Is that okay?
In recent years, there has been a boom in fast fashion. Gone are the days of buying what you need. We are now surrounded by so much choice and collection after collection of must haves. Clothes have turned into a consumer good that is mass produced beyond its need. This overproduction, as you can imagine, uses a great deal of energy, most likely coming from non-renewable resources. Clothes are often made abroad, meaning we also need to consider the energy that goes into transportation, thus contributing to climate change even further.
This is fast fashion - mass produced items that will stay in your wardrobe for a few months before they are tossed out because they no longer fit the trends. There is so much available to us, and at such little cost, that we buy items willy nilly and don't think about our purchases other than will this look cute on me? Big companies overproduce, cheap and unsustainable clothes simply to make profit. Capitalism at its best. But as consumers we lap it up. We buy into the new trends and don't think for a second where our clothes came from and this needs to stop.
Clothes are often made up of microfibers which end up in the sea when you wash them and in landfill when you decide to throw them in the bin. Approximately 21 billion tons of textile waste ends up in landfill. A main part of the burden lays with the big companies, but individual behaviours and demand needs to change too. You are also responsible.
What Can You Do?
Earlier this month, the UN announced that we need to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030. It has been extensively reported that by 2050 it is expected that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Every day we hear reports about floods, forest fires, really cold winters and the highest temperatures we have ever seen in a British Summer which all points to climate change. As fashion is one of the largest contributors to this problem change clearly needs to happen.
|More plastic than fish in the sea by 2050?|
I wholeheartedly agree that large scale change cannot happen without the big companies making changes to their manufacturing methods and behaviours. However, that in no way means we can sit back and do sod all. Here is what you as an individual can do:
- Reduce demand for mass produced clothing. You don't have to ditch your high street brands but limit your spending. Buy what you need and not excessively. The lack of demand will encourage companies to rethink their ways.
- Buy second hand. Charity shops and vintage stores are your friend. This considerably reduces waste, allows you to find unique pieces and won't cost a bomb.
- Donate & Recycle. Don't throw old clothes in your general household waste. If it can be reworn send it to a charity shop. H&M have a recycling scheme, your local recycling centre will have a textiles section and some charity shops will send damaged clothes to be recycled.
- Shop sustainable brands. These are likely to be more pricey but they will be better quality and you will have the knowledge that you are not harming the planet. It's all about investing in the staple pieces.
- Repair. If it's broke - fix it! Fashion Revolution have some excellent tutorials on their YouTube on how to fix clothes so you can keep on wearing your favourite pieces.
- Shop Green Collections. Brand such as H&M and ASOS have 'green collections' which are selected items that are sustainable. Some people may be wary of this as you are still pumping £££ into companies that overall take an unsustainable approach but it is a good first step to make.
As bloggers and 'influencers' we have a duty to take action. I personally think it would be amazing to see well known fashion bloggers to start doing some of the steps taken above rather than getting a whole new wardrobe every month (yes a slight exaggeration but you see my point). I'd love to see a bit more thriftiness in the blogging community and, well to be honest, I want to see that representatives of the fashion industry actually care about their impact on the world that they live in, because I certainly do.