Greenhouse gases, climate change, global warming – these are all terms that we citizens of the 21st century are fully aware of. Most of us associate these terms with cars, planes, power plants, and the burning of fossil fuels, which may make it seem as though an individual’s impact is limited to buying a hybrid vehicle or only using the air conditioning when absolutely necessary. But amongst all the hype of “going green” lies another simple – and money saving – solution to helping the environment. Fashion.
The fashion industry is the second largest consumer sector, next to food. Therein lies many uses for clothing – such as warmth and covering (obviously), trends, “retail therapy”, etc. Many people make changes to their wardrobes several times a year, and sometimes even make outfit changes several times in one day. All along a piece of clothing’s lifetime – from the production of the textiles, to the shipping across borders, to time it spends in your washer and dryer, to how you choose to send it to its next life – has an impact on our environment.
It takes 10000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of cotton, which equates to about 2700 liters, or 10000 gallons of water per shirt. Two gallons of gasoline are required to produce one polyester t-shirt. Cotton production accounts for 1% of US crop production, but 10% of pesticide use. But the most damaging impact of your clothing – 60% to be exact – is in the washing and drying. The product and responsibility is already in your hands. To dry one load of clothes, on average, generates more than three kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions. You can reduce your impact by 66% in choosing to line dry your clothing. Washing with hot water produces more than four kilograms of GHG, where as cold water produces less than one-third of a kilogram.
But your opportunities to help the environment don’t end there. There comes a time when you feel its best to send your clothes somewhere other than the back of your closet. Sometimes you grow out of them, and sometimes they just aren’t “in”. But before you give it it’s proper burial at the local dumpster, consider a few things. More than 90 million items of clothing end up in landfills each year, and each person throws away about 68 pounds of textile per year. But we’re doing what we can to reduce our impact right?! A single kilogram of collected used clothing can reduce almost eight pounds of CO2 emissions, and recycling textiles can eliminate the use of 6000 liters of water, 300 grams of fertilizer, and 200 grams of pesticide. So think – is there any way you can reduce your personal impact? Maybe a DIY project with old t-shirts? Maybe donating to a thriftstore? Maybe avoiding buying things you don’t really need?
The textile and garment industries share in contributing to global warming from the growing of fibers, to manufacturing, to distributing, then to transporting these clothes to stores and customers and energy guzzling Laundromats/ conventional dry cleaners, until it’s death in the landfills. So next time you feel like going on your next shopping spree, think twice. #thinkfwd.
“I admit to having worn suede and leather myself for a while, but you just never felt clean, and it’s degenerate anyway to use animal skins.”
“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol