The Morning Call

How your cloth­ing choices are harm­ing the en­vi­ron­ment

- Amanda Chapin Amanda Chapin, of An­napo­lis, Mary­land, is a stu­dent at Le­high Univer­sity pur­su­ing her mas­ter’s de­gree in en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­icy. Fashion · Fashion & Beauty · Ecology · Shopping · Consumer Goods · LULULEMON ATHLETICA, INC. · Forever XXI · NIKE

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 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

fash­ion habits?

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 ?? MARKLENNIH­AN/AP ?? H&M, shown here in NewYork, sells fast fash­ion cloth­ing.
MARKLENNIH­AN/AP H&M, shown here in NewYork, sells fast fash­ion cloth­ing.

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