The Morning Call
How your clothing choices are harming the environment
Have you ever bought a piece of clothing from Gap, Forever 21 or H&M? Even if you have not bought from one of these brands, odds are you have bought a piece of fast fashion clothing at some point.
I definitely have, especially in middle school when I had to have the trendiest outfits, which soon fizzled out and changed by the next year and even next season.
Fast fashion is a term used to describe clothing that is produced to meet current trends and sold at a cheap price. The problem is that the quick nature of trends results in consumers throwing away and forgetting about their new pieces of clothing.
Theenvironmental impact of the fashion industry is often overlooked. The industry is one of the largest carbon emitters in the world, and that is not talked about nearly as much as it should be.
The industry accounts for about 10% of global carbon emissions and that amount is expected to increase unless changes are made. The industry not only contributes to massive air pollution, but also to water and land pollution.
Thousands of unsold pounds of clothes are burned or dumpedinto landfills, while the wastewater that comes from making the clothes is dumped into the ocean and other waterways.
But why is this industry left out of our policy radar? Possibly due to the fact that clothes can be easily overlooked and never really thought to be as big of a problem as, say, the ice caps melting. However, clothing impacts many other issues we care about.
Cotton and denim, two popular materials, require large amounts of water to produce. This results in the clothing industry being the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply.
And if you’re wearing clothes made out of synthetic material, like Lululemon leggings or a Nike jacket, you are wearing plastic. When you wash these pieces of clothes, microplastics come out of the clothes and enter into the world’s waterways, causing harm to wildlife and to other humans.
The fashion companies are not the only problem; consumer habits are, too. It is estimated that 3 percent of waste from each household comes from clothing, which equates to about 68 pounds per year.
But even if you try to act altruistically and donate clothes to organizations like Goodwill or Salvation Army, you are still contributing to the problem. They receive such large amounts of donations that they can only sell less than half of what they receive, and the rest ends up being burned or sold to developing countries, which harms local textile industries.
So why does this matter and what can you do?
To start, you can stop shopping at fast fashion companies. You can begin to make an effort to buy consciously and buy from brands that make an effort to use recycled materials. Or even shop secondhand.
To help with finding sustainable brands, I recommend using the website goodonyou.eco. You can search your favorite brands on the website and find ratings on the company’s impact on the plant, people and animals, along with an overall rating. The best part of the website is that for the brands with poor ratings, the website offers alternative clothing brands with better ratings with similar style and price.
Another solution is to find ways to repurpose old clothing. Perhaps using old T-shirts as cleaning rags or making the T-shirts into a quilted blanket. Even possibly cutting up old jeans to patch up current jeans, or making a hat out of an old sweater. Repurposing clothes will keep them out of landfills and makethem useful once again.
While wecannot do it all ourselves, the beginning of change starts with us. We need to band together and realize that
we were once the problem, but with a change in behavior, we can be the solution.
We need to be more thoughtful in our consumption, and demand the large fashion brands to make a difference
with us. The change will then end with fashion companies making the move to sustainable production, while decreasing emissions and decreasing overall environmental impact.
So, what will you do to change your