Wear Your Love for the Earth
We often find ourselves wondering, what can I do about climate change?
Sometimes it seems like it's out of our hands. That it's taking place far away or up to our governments. The truth is there are changes and choices that we can make that influence the health of our planet. In fact, there is something we all use every single day and night that has a direct impact on climate change.
Clothing. We all wear clothes, but are you aware of the environmental impact your clothing choices have? Just by learning about your choices you can start making healthier selections for the Earth.
Did you know that approximately 46 lbs of greenhouse gasses are generated from making 2 lbs of clothes?*a You may think 2lbs sounds like a lot but the average pair of adult blue jeans weight around 1.5 lbs.
What is alarming is the new trend in "fast fashion". Clothing manufacturing has more than doubled over the last decade due to improved production methods. With more clothing being made, costs went down which in turn caused people to buy more.
Lower cost is not a bad thing. However, these clothes are being made from man materials that are a cheaper quality and they tend to have a useful life of about one year. These clothes are then thrown out or donated.
We all think we are doing something good when we donate but unfortunately these fast fashions are so "shoddy" that even third world countries will not accept them. *b Charities cannot sell them either. So they end up in mountain sized piles in warehouses.
The clothes that are thrown out end up in landfills and most of them do not bio-degrade.
Why not recycle them? Fast fashion clothes are often a blend of multiple fibers. It's very difficult to mechanically separate the fibers from each other without damaging them. Chemical methods of fiber break down are too expensive and would ultimately create more toxins.
So what can you do?
1. Avoid buying "Fast Fashion" clothes. Watch out for materials that contain blended manmade fiber. Look for stronger natural fibers that tend to last longer. Buy clothes made to last that can be mended or can be passed on to others.
2. Don't buy more than you really need. It is estimated that we use less than 40% of the clothing that we own. Most people will state that they own at least one article of clothing with the price tag still on it.
3. Buy locally. Without getting into the various human right concerns of clothing manufacturing in certain countries, stop and think of how far your clothes travel to reach you. Clothes made in countries far from your own, come with a huge fossil fuel bill whether they travel by boat or plane and then by train or trucks to land on your store shelf. Check the label for "Made in ..." and think twice.
4. Buy (and sell) previously owned clothing. Second hand no longer means what it used to. You can find many great quality items that were either never worn or rarely worn at all on sites like Ebay and UpThread. You can also shop at your local consignment stores and charity run Thrift Shops. Each item you buy in this way completely eliminates the toxins used to manufacturer another one had it been purchased new. Plus, you usually save money and can find some quite exciting buys. And don't be afraid to resell the clothes you aren't wearing either. There is a market for it.
5. Repurpose clothes. If your clothes are so worn out that no one can use them give them a second life! Clothes can make great rags for cleaning. Turn your favorite old T-shirt into a pillow case. Make those faded blue jeans into a planting pot for flowers. Need to pack away some breakables? Wrap them in old towels instead of bubble wrap. Be creative.
6. Most importantly be an educated consumer. Know which material types harm the environment the most. Here is a list of what to avoid and what to look for.
What to avoid: *c
-Nylons and Polyesters. Both materials are made from petrochemicals that are also non-biodegradable. Nylon creates nitrous oxide which is a gas 310 times more harmful to the planet then carbon dioxide.
- Rayon. You might think a material made from wood pulp would be a better choice. However old growth forests are chopped down so that fast growing eucalyptus trees can be planted to make rayon. These trees drink far more water than others which can cause drought conditions in the areas they are grown. Plus, Sulphuric acid is used to process the wood pulp which is a hazardous chemical with toxic effects.
-PVC . "The most toxic plastic is made from Vinyl chloride which is a known human carcinogen. The manufacture and incineration of PVC creates and releases dioxins which cause a wide range of health issues including cancer, birth defects, diabetes, learning disabilities, endometriosis and immune system abnormalities." *d
- Cotton. Yes, you read that right, "Cotton is the most pesticide intensive crop in the world". These pesticides cause many health issues and if not processed carefully the cotton fibers can retain the pesticides in them slowly leaching out over the wear of the clothing.
- Dyed and Finished clothing: Unfixed dye often washes out of garments, and can end up colouring the rivers, as treatment plants fail to remove them from the water. Dye fixatives – often heavy metals – also end up in sewers and then rivers. Cloth is often bleached using dioxin-producing chlorine compounds. And virtually all polycotton (especially bedlinen), plus all 'easy care', 'crease resistant', 'permanent press' cotton, are treated with toxic formaldehyde (also used for flameproofing nylon).
What to look for: *e
Organic cotton. Cotton is a good natural fiber. It's only when they are grown with heavy pesticides that it becomes an issue. Organic cotton eliminates the use of pesticides and are less likely to be bleached.
Hemp. Hemp is a very ecological choice as it is highly productive, easy to cultivate and pest tolerate reducing or even eliminating the need for pesticides. It also grows deep roots which help enrich the soil it grows in.
Bamboo. Bamboo is a hypoallergenic, absorbent and fast growing plant. It is a sustainable alternative although there have been some concerns over pesticide and fertilizer use although even when those are used they are far less than other crops.
Linen. A traditional fiber which uses very little pesticide or fertilizer.
Plant based Natural Dyes. Did you know you can get color from flowers, roots, barks and leaves? Plant based dye is all natural with none of the toxic effects of chemical made dyes.
Want to learn more or even how to dye naturally?
Please check out our WaterCarrier partner Justine Aldersey-Williams website and class: The Wild Dyery. See her bio here.
Above all else please remember that what you spend your money on drives what will be produced and how. You hold the power in your hands and your decisions when buying clothes for yourself and your family does carry out into the world. Let's all make choices that are healthier for the planet and ourselves.
~ Terra Canova
Mountain of Clothing photo from Newsweek. For a deeper understanding of the Fast Fashion issue please see their entire article.