Do you know the real price tag of all the cool clothes you bought on that last blow out end-of season sale, in your favorite store? Whether we are trying to keep up with the ever-changing tide of what is fashionable, buying extra stuff because the bargain is too good to pass up, or because we love the GAP, Abercrombie, Diesel, etc, so much that we cannot resist just one more t-shirt or a pair of jeans, we just don’t stop to think twice before swiping that credit card.
While we are constantly bombarded with edgy advertising prompting us to buy more clothes that may never see the light of day after hitting our closet shelves, we rarely are aware of the increasing toll on the environment that our rampant clothing consumption is causing. From processing to manufacturing to distribution, big clothing manufacturers are causing water pollution, increase he amount of toxic waste dumped into the earth and atmosphere and overall contribute to global warming.
This will continue to happen as long as we continue to buy. Our dollars translate into corporate profit, and as long as large clothing corporations make profit, they will not change course. This means that as consumers we have the real power to help our environment by curbing our consumption and taking a stand by choosing to buy eco-friendly clothing, instead of the big brands.
Why are we not aware of the environmental damage caused by the clothing industry?
The answer is simple: for the most part pollution is not happening in the United States. Even not as far back as forty years ago, the US had a booming clothing industry, however as consumption demands soared, the increases in processing and production started to cause alarming environmental concerns in the areas where these factories were located. Water and air were polluted by harmful toxic wastes that were being dumped into them as part of the manufacturing process. The US has strict environmental laws that made it difficult for the clothing manufacturers to keep going at the same rate, so their solution was to move production off-shore to Asia and Latin America. Ever since the move happened, the clothing corporations have a had a field day with no enforceable environmental regulations, and a slew of other major benefits that the host countries provide. The result? They get the pollution, we get the pretty stuff, remaining blissfully unaware of what is really going on.
What is the harm to our Earth?
1. Processing of natural fibers such as cotton as well as synthetic fibers such as polyester in order to make them into fabric requires huge amounts of toxic chemicals, and excessive supplies of water. During this process the toxic wastes are dumped both into the land or into the water, making land unsuitable for agriculture and water for drinking.
2. Using up such huge supplies of water throughout all stages of clothing production contributes to water scarcity on our planet.
3. Dying clothes in all the bright colors that we love so much requires the most water and the most toxic, carcinogenic chemicals, all of which are also released into the land, water and air in the process.
4. The manufacturing process itself causes large emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
5. Oil is heavily utilized throughout, from processing to distribution, further polluting the environment and contributing to keeping the demand for oil high.
6. Every year, Americans dump more than 12 million tons of textiles. Less than 25% of this waste is recycled, which means the rest goes into our landfills.
Why eco-friendly clothing is the way to go?
Clothing production is a highly polluting process no matter how you slice it. However, eco-friendly clothing companies make a conscious effort to use environmentally safer practices in their production process. Eco-friendly clothing can take on many different forms. Many of the companies and designers in this niche are local, which means that your purchases will help support the growth of American artisan industry.There are companies that intentionally keep their production small, work with small cotton and silk farmers that use more traditional and environmentally friendly practices of textile production than the big manufacturers do, and in general find ways to cut down on the use of water and toxic chemicals. There are clothing designers that produce handmade clothing, thereby avoiding most of the pollution causing practices outlined above. Other clothing designers make up-cycled clothes, using recycled clothing and fabric. The truth is that as more people are becoming aware of the real environmental costs of buying big brands, they are slowly starting to make a switch to more environmentally friendly clothing. As a result, more options in eco-friendly fashion are becoming available to consumers. Do your research online and read about companies’ production practices to find the ones that show a commitment to our environment. If you look, you will be sure to find many options that fit your style, budget, and make you feel good that now your money is helping preserve our planet.