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We all like to be seen to be wearing the right thing, whether we follow the style of 80’s chic or office geek. But do we know what we’re really wearing?
When you look a little deeper into the throwaway culture of ‘fast fashion’ that’s hit our streets, it’s clear that we’re bearing a lot more on our shoulders than just our latest shrug.
Energy is used in every stage of clothes production, from farming the cotton to transporting the clothes to your wardrobe – with dying, cutting, sewing and packaging in between.
Increasing demand for virgin clothes caused by our ‘throwaway fashion’ culture has added pressure to the pressing issue of water scarcity. Intensive cotton farming in Kazakhstan has reduced the Aral Sea to one-tenth of its original volume in just a few decades4.
Wildlife and ecosystems don’t escape the adverse effects of the industry either; the synthetic fibre industry and the intensive use of pesticides and insecticides in cotton farming mean that toxic compounds find their way into the water systems.
Landfill space is in short supply, they’re filling up fast and none of us wants a new one on our doorstep. The advent of ‘fast fashion’ has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of clothes sent to landfill – each of us now throws around 30Kg of textiles in the bin each year – the same as 120 T-shirts.
Charities sell un-wearable clothes as stuffing and rags, so even if that t-shirt has faded, stained and ripped, it’s still got value.
Child labour and working conditions
We’ve all heard of sweatshops. You may not have seen one, but the chances are you’ve worn their produce. With stylishly embroidered tops costing as little as £6, there’s little chance of a fair wage being earned by all.
This has been the focus of campaigns for decades, and thankfully they’re beginning to pay off. The collapse of a factory in Bangladesh last year helped to re-ignite this discussion. But it’s pretty difficult for retailers to monitor a string of subcontractors and suppliers all around the world, so sadly the unfairness hasn’t been completely uncovered.
The average Brit spends £780 a year on clothes5. By buying better-made, longer-lasting clothes you could save yourself a lot of money - even if it means spending a little more upfront.
1. Clothes swap: Find or host a Swishing party: invite your friends over and ask them to bring a lovely but unloved piece of clothing so that someone else can fall in love with it. Everyone goes home with a revived wardrobe and full wallets.
Alternatively, check out the Vinted app - a great online app that lets you sell and swap unwanted clothes. Brilliant!
2. Charity shop: Take a gander around your local charity shop, you might just be in for a surprise. Check out where they are through this charity shop listing.
3. Buy to last: If you really can’t resist buying something new, make sure it’s made to last, and under fair working conditions. And if it’s cotton, make it organic cotton. Have a look at People Tree who create sustainable and ethical clothing.
Want to do this action? Head over to our list of Doers to find someone to pledge for.
Got other tips or great resources to share? Please email them over to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
1 - Berners-Lee, M (2010) How Bad Are Bananas?
2 & 5 - Well Dressed?.pdf
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