24 Jun Sustainable fashion is important and why I stopped shopping
It’s been a couple of years since I stood in front of my cupboard and realised how much clothes I own. I had way more than I needed, yet I was buying new items on a monthly basis. Crazy! Without having a word for it, I knew that sustainable fashion needed to become part of my life.
That day that I stared at my cupboard and realised how much money I wasted on clothes, clothes that I hardly ever got to wear, I knew something needed to change. Today, there’s a word for it, sustainable fashion, and we should all be practicing it.
I grew up with a love of fashion. My grandmother was a fashionista of her era and my mother was always lauded for her fashion sense when she still worked. She’s more into athleisure and casual wear now that she’s retired, but she still looks good! A keen eye for a unique and beautiful item was passed down to me and my cupboard is bursting with different styles for various occasions.
With the advent of fast fashion and the huge problem of landfills filled with clothing got me thinking that I am part of the problem. It is true that I don’t discard of my clothing in the rubbish, I generally donate, but I have no control over where they land up once other people are done with it. I wanted to be part of the solution. My first step was to stop buying clothes. It sounds crazy, but I hardly ever do. I might buy one item per season to add some pizzazz to my style, but other than that, my cupboard hasn’t change in over four years and I am mighty proud of that. My clothes are still in great condition and I keep things fresh by wearing different combinations or changing up accessories for various events and occasions.
- Nearly 20% of global waste water is produced by the fashion industry.
- Cotton farming is responsible for 24% of insecticides and 11% of pesticides, despite using only 3% of the world’s arable land.
- 20,000 liters is the amount of water needed to produce one kilogram of cotton; equivalent to a single t-shirt and pair of jeans.
- It takes more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a T-shirt and a pair of jeans.
- Textile industry is one of the top 3 water wasting industry in China, discharging over 2.5 billion tons of wastewater every year.
- NPR reports, from the Environmental Protection Agency, that 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded.
- About 15% of fabric intended for clothing ends up on the cutting room floor. This waste rate has been tolerated
industry-wide for decades.
- According to Christina Dean, Redress, waste generated in China is not known, with estimates that China will soon make 50% of the world’s clothing – the indications for textile waste there are mind-blowing. Daily in Hong Kong, there are 253 tons of textiles sent to landfill.
- Consumers throw away shoes and clothing [versus recycle], an average of 70 pounds per person, annually.
- A few communities have textile recycling programs, about 85% of this waste goes to landfills where it occupies about 5% of landfill space and the amount is growing.
- Up to 95% of the textiles that are land filled each year could be recycled.
- Landfill space is expensive and hard to find.
- Using recycled cotton saves 20,000 liters of water per kilogram of cotton, a water-intensive crop.
Instagram is a problem
Instagram doesn’t make it easy for aspiring fashion influencers. It seems that influencers in those niches wear new outfits for every photograph and the precedent is set. Millions of wannabe fashion influencers annually go into staggering debt to keep up with Joneses, so to speak. That’s the ugly part that’s never posted or talked about. There’s also heaps of clothing that end up in landfills and adding to our world’s waste problem. I would love to see a post by one of these influencers talking about the dangers of retail addiction or consumerism. Because, I do believe that some people use it to distract themselves from their real issues. Or talk about what happens to their tons of clothing once they deem it over-photographed. Do you know how much money I’ve saved by not buying clothes on a regular basis? It’s actually an amazing feeling being able to save or spend it on things I really want or need.
One of my besties, and fashionista extraordinaire, Sarah, is passionate about sustainable fashion and just got accepted to study her masters on the topic. In addition to being super proud of her, I am also always keen to be educated on the topic. She recently turned an old dress, that she was no longer able to wear, into a top and handbag, breathing new life into it. Why have I never thought of re-purposing clothing in this way? It’s something I am putting on my list to do.
Next time you head to the mall for retail therapy, first ask yourself if you need another item added to your already bulging collection. Let’s be honest, most of us have our ten favourite pieces that we wear repeatedly, with the rest taking up space.
We can all educate ourselves on sustainable fashion and contribute to the solution instead of the problem. You may feel like you’re only one person, but every little helps in the end.