We are living in very weird times. A lot of us are feeling stressed and nervous about how the situation will unfold. However, I believe that in times of crisis we should use the things that we are passionate about as anchors to what ultimately connects us all: Earth.
As most of us are social distancing ourselves in our houses and days go by, Earth seems to be taking a much needed break from rising air pollution. Of course, experts claim that this will change once the quarantine stops, but I will take this small win for now.
Stuck at home for so long, it’s quite possible that many will turn to the comfort of online shopping. I know I have already been tempted to do so one too many times. Retailers –especially clothes retailers -will try to make it even more tempting by bombarding you with ads of “great” deals.
I urge you: don’t buy into this. (Pun intended.)
At this point, you might be wondering why you shouldn’t try to ease the hardship of this stressful situation with online clothes shopping.
Well, I am glad you asked! Below you will find 5 main reasons why you should try to limit buying new clothes altogether, regardless of the current trends, season and mood.
Making clothes requires a lot of water. Actually, the numbers are astronomical. For example, 10,000-20,000 litres of water are needed to produce one, I repeat, one kilogram of cotton. For the production of a single pair of jeans it is estimated that 8,000 litres of water are required. Just to put numbers into perspective, it would take roughly seven years for a person to consume that amount of water. Hence, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the fashion industry is the second largest consumer of water globally.
Unfortunately, there is more.
Full of chemicals
Most fast fashion production occurs in developing countries where cheap labor is the standard. Also common in these countries? Loose or poorly implemented regulations for chemical contamination. To put it simply, the dyes used for the coloring of clothing are not disposed of as they should but are most likely dumped in nearby rivers. These dyes consist of toxic chemicals which are very dangerous for all aquatic life and as a result, human lives too.
It doesn’t end there though.
Trapped in a sea of microplastics
Every time you do your laundry, small microfibers shed from synthetic clothes. It is estimated that from a single washload of polyester items 700,000 microplastic fibers can be detached and end up into the sea. According to a 2017 IUCN report, 35 percent of all microplastics found in the ocean stemmed from the laundering of synthetic fabrics.
The fashion industry accounts for 10 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. This translates to 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which surpasses the emissions of all international flights and shipping combined. If we take into consideration the emissions numbers from clothes laundering and how clothing is disposed of, then the number is almost tripled.
What a waste!
Turns out that none of us really need to own that many clothes. A lot of it ends up in the dump. To be more exact, 2,625 kg -or the equivalent of a truck- of clothing are either burned or landfilled, every single second.
What can we do?
All this information might come as a shock to many, myself included. You might be wondering what is there we could do to help change this.
Well, you could start with the obvious one: buy less clothes. This might make a lot us feel uncomfortable, especially considering the emotional support some people get from buying new items. However, I urge you to focus on the bigger picture here. Eliminating clothes shopping is not just good for your pocket, it is also imperative for the environment, animals and ultimately humans.
What happens when you simply outgrow clothes or they accidentally get ruined though?
Some of you might think that perhaps turning to high fashion could be a choice. Well, the answer is: it depends. It is generally believed that high end fashion could be more sustainable than fast fashion because famous brands can afford better raw materials and a low(er) carbon production. Actions like the Fashion Pact have certainly helped promote that notion. At the same time though, there are many famous brands that have not set any sustainability goals and are not being transparent about their production-to-shelf process. If you are thinking of choosing high fashion, make sure that you do thorough research about the company/companies before you decide to make a purchase.
A creative option is to swap clothes with people you know. That way you get to put on something new and you try out different styles. People of course vary in height, weight and shapes but between friends and relatives perhaps there is someone you know that you could try this with. I did it for my birthday outfit this year and it turned out to be really fun!
Another option is thrift shopping. This is great if you want to buy something “new” while saving money and the earth’s resources, since it helps put less pressure on virgin materials.
A popular alternative to second hand shopping is renting clothes. This is a growing movement which seems to be gaining a lot of followers, with many websites and apps –like Good On You, or Rent The Runway- being designed to make this option even easier to choose. Bear in mind though, that renting garments need to be constantly dry cleaned, packaged and shipped. Depending on the ways through which these are done, renting clothes could also add to carbon emissions. The best thing to do if you opt in for this alternative is to choose a local, small rental company.
Last but not least, make sure to keep up with initiatives like the Love Your Clothes campaign or download the Clear Fashion app (currently available only in France, but it will soon be available in other countries too), where you can find useful information. Making an informed decision about what we do with our clothes is the least we can do, when the environmental stakes are this high.