“Fast fashion”. The British high street has made it incredibly easy for us to have something shiny and new for next to nothing. It lets us fill our wardrobes to the brim with as many clothes as we can get in there, yet we still seem to have nothing to wear. Why is this? In my opinion it’s because we have nothing we LOVE. Because we buy most things on a whim, because it’s on sale, or because we need something new to wear to a party. But with the fashion industry emitting more greenhouse gas emissions than international shipping and aviation combined it’s not a habit we can afford to keep up.
Have you ever thought about were your clothes may have come from? Let’s for an example look at jeans.
Denim is an amazing product. It was created to withstand hard labour so it is by nature built for longevity, which on paper is great for its sustainable points. However according to Levi Strauss a pair of their 501 jeans uses 3781 litres of water in its life cycle, that’s the equivalent of around 50 baths. This is because denim is made primarily of cotton and cotton farming is extremely water intensive but that’s not the only reason the cotton trade isn’t great. It makes up for around 2.4% of world land crops yet staggeringly accounts for around 24% of insecticides used and 11% of pesticides. Depending on were it’s made it will then be shipped around the world.
The other important question? Who made your jeans? Uzbekistan, a major exporter of cotton, relies on modern slave labour. According to a 2016 report by the Uzbek German forum for human rights, respondents asked said they could not refuse to pick cotton but were paid an extremely low wage. But it’s not just the cotton picking. To get that’s distressed look on your jeans a practice called sandblasting is used. This practice can seriously damage workers health and lead to a condition called silicosis, a potentially lethal pulmonary disease. The risk of this disease is even higher if proper equipment is not used. A 2012 report estimates that 5,000 or more sand blasting workers in turkey were infected with silicosis. While turkey have now banned the practice many less regulated countries such as Bangladesh, China, Pakistan and Egypt still use it. This is on top of the already high carbon emissions I mentioned above, it’s not a great picture painted for our cheap pairs of jeans.
But all is not lost. Big companies such as Levi Strauss, H&M and Patagonia as well as many small companies are pledging to make a change and use more sustainable ways to produce their products. Levi’s for example already use a lot of organic or recycled cotton in their jeans and have promised to make it 100% by 2020. H&M by 2025.
So here’s what you can do.
1. Spend more…. yes I want you to spend more which will actually means you spend less. Make sense? What I mean is go out and buy yourself a really decent pair of jeans that you LOVE, that will last and that you can wear for years without them going out of fashion. Spend a little more on one item instead of buying 5 pairs of jeans that you don’t wear much and wear out quickly.
2. Buy from companies that are sustainable or at least trying to be. It’s easy to buy clothing made from organic cotton online, a lot of it is sold by small businesses that are great to support, and buy natural fibres so that micro plastics aren’t washing into our water ways when you wash your clothes, but if you can’t do that buy something decent thats going to get tons of use and will last you well.
3. Buy second hand. You wouldn’t believe the amazing things you can find on eBay. Bonus points for charity shop finds.
4. Swap with friends. If you really want something different for a special occasion and your struggling to find something you can always ask your friends and family. My sister in law is amazing at finding things in her wardrobe when I’m going to a wedding and back when I lived with my flat mates at uni I don’t think we ever went out in our own clothes, we just searched through each others wardrobes. Obviously it helped that we were the same size.
So I hope that’s made you think for a minute. Have a look though your wardrobe, see what you can breathe new life to, or if it’s not for you anymore pass it/sell it on for someone else to enjoy.