We are in an interesting time when if comes to how the fashion industry works, it has changed so much in just the last 20 years. Clothing production has doubled from 2000 to 2014 and consumers are consuming 60 percent more clothing since then.
Flash back to the 1950’s when the traditional closet had two seasons a year. You would pack away you bulkier clothing when the warmer seasons hit, then pack away the summer frocks and shorts once the cold weather returned. Clothing was built to last and bought with intention.
Here we are today and you can buy a blouse for $3, but at what cost? We have all heard about the impacts on fast fashion when it comes to the labor workers, but how does it affect the environment when you are mass producing cheap textiles at a high rate?
The average garment is worn just three times before it is discarded, and with that the average person in America throws away 81 pounds of clothing a year.
One reason is due to cheaply produced clothing that is made to be disposable, lasting just a few wears before its tossed and you are headed back to buy more. The less a consumer spends on an article of clothing the less value it has to them.
We cannot recycle or dispose our unwanted garments fast enough and our landfills are showing it. America alone is tossing 26 billion pounds of textiles a year, combine that with the rest of our trash and we are in a serious waste crisis.
A large amount of of the clothing manufactured today is made from synthetic fabric. Synthetic fabrics are fast, easy, and cheap to produce.
Yielding high profit for a low cost, however the consumer and environment are left paying the consequences. Polyester specifically has a tendency to pill, and fall apart making the clothing have a short lifespan and end up in the landfill.
The harms that synthetic fabrics have on the environment are the micro plastics that come off of the fabric.
What are micro plastics? Micro plastics are the tiny bits of fibers that come off of synthetic based fabric when it gets washed.
Studies have found that a single clothing wash cycle can release up to 700,000 micro fibers. The fibers then go down the drain, making its way into our oceans.
Micro plastics can then end up being consumed by fish, birds, and end up in our drinking water and even in the products we consume like beer, salt, honey, and sugar.
Cotton is a very thirsty crop, it takes 2700 liters of water to produce just one cotton T-shirt. Which is enough water for one person to drink for 2 1/2 years!
Not only does cotton farming use a lot of water but we are also polluting the water. The cotton industry itself accounts for 10% of all agricultural chemicals and 25% of insecticides used.
The fashion industry it self is the 2nd dirtiest most polluting industry in the world, next to big oil.
Alright, alright. Enough of the bad news. Believe it or not we the consumer have power! Power to shift the industry and power to make a difference.
How to Reduce Your Impact
- Practice intentional consumption and avoid mindless shopping. Read our recent article on “5 Steps to Quitting Fast Fashion” by Elizabeth Joy for a great place to start getting you inspired.
- Invest in a micro plastic catcher like Guppyfriends or a Cora Ball. They collect the micro plastics in the wash so they can get sent to the landfill instead of straight to the ocean.
- Reduce how much you wash you clothing. Just like the hair on our head we wash a clothes too much! Try to wear an item 2-3 times before just tossing it into the dirty laundry pile (minus underwear of course!). Not only with this make the garment last longer but if its made of synthetic fibers it will also reduce the amount of micro plastic pollution.
- When shopping, look for natural fibers like flax, bamboo, or organic cotton.
- Support clothing companies that are working towards making a positive impact.
- Shop secondhand: From online to local shops, secondhand clothing is more than just someones hand me downs. You would be surprised what name brand garment you can find in like new condition for a fraction of the retail price.