from previous years they’d be set on meat suit coverings. But today we have Fast Fashion- cheap clothing made rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. So Instead of 4, we now 52 micro seasons of fashion trends a year. Yes you read that correctly, a new line rolling out into H&M, Forever 21, Walmart, etc. every week.
As a result, the fashion industry is the second largest polluting industry, just under the oil industry.
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Some of our clothes start their life as cotton. plants that grow in warm climates in full sun. In order for this cotton to grow fast and cheap, it needs to be resistant to pests and weeds- so Monsanto stepped in with a GMO seed, which is Round Up read y- enabling farmers to dump pounds of poisons on their field on a regular basis. These chemicals are killing lots of things on the landscape as well as causing health effects for the farmers.
Especially in places like India where they’re seeing a a catastrophic rise in birth defects and cancer for famers, their families, and their children. An additional side effect of of this is India is that farmers are having a hard time making a profit (they have to buy the fancy GMO seeds, then the proper chemicals that go on them) so when they in the end, many go bankrupt and lose their farm because of that debt, they end up drinking the pesticides as a way to commit suicide.
In a CNN report, In 2013 in India, 11,772 farmers committed suicide. That’s 44 deaths every day of the year. Making that 1 every 30 minutes.
And in the past 2 decades that number is 300,000 farmers who took their own lives. That’s than 16 1/2 football stadiums worth of humans.
But not all clothing is made of cotton. Others are made of polyesters, synthetic materials and plastics- like fleece- which also don’t biodegrade and ARE fossil fuels.
Since we’re still talking about the production of the materials for the clothes, I wanted to drop a couple holy shit numbers for you:
* From Levi Strauss, making one pair of jeans produces the same amount of greenhouse gases as driving a car more than 69 miles. And each year 450 million pairs are sold in the US.
* According to the World Wildlife Organization, to make a single cotton t shirt, it takes 2,700 liters of water.
To make this more crappy, cotton is already being grown in places where water is already a precious commodity.
Once the materials are ready, they move to factories where workers can sew them. Many of places are sweat shops - meaning extremely poor working conditions, unbearable heat, toxic chemicals in the air, long hours, and low wages.
In order for the clothes to be cheap, workers need to pump out items faster and faster. These people, most of them women, are making $2 a day- I saw a report where workers went on strike in Cambodia where they were asking for a pay raise, bumping up their wages to $106 a month!
Owners of these factories are focused on profits, so when workers point out fire hazards or cracks in the buildings, these dangers are ignored.
In 2018 a fire broke out in a factory killing more than 40 people.
In 2013 a textile building collapsed killing more than 1000 workers.
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As they are worn, they are washed, which washes the chemicals and micro plastic fibers out with the laundry water. Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara found that, on average, synthetic fleece jackets release 1.7 grams of microfibers each wash. It also found that older jackets shed almost twice as many fibers as new jackets.
Depending on your waste water system, many of these micro fibers then go through the waste treatment plant where up to 40% of them end up rivers, lakes and oceans. Where they can poison the entire food chain. Becoming the food we eat and found in the water we drink.
Once you have these clothes, you wear them.
On your skin.
The largest organ of the body, which means it also takes in some of these chemicals, including potential carcinogens that are in dyes causing untold health effects.
After They’re worn for a little bit, because either they’re falling apart, not cute anymore, or were bought purely on impulse and you didn’t even like it in the first place— where do they go?
What happens when these cheap items are done- From the documentary The True Cost “The average American throws away 82 pounds of clothing each year. Adding up to a staggering 11 million tons in the US. Most of it is not biodegradable, meaning it can sit in a landfill for 200 years or more"
Even if you are donating some or all of those items to thrift, only about 10% ends up in someone else’s hands. The rest ends up dumped in poor nations or in land fills.
My hope is that you see, that with this topic more than another so far, that the appalling situation of the fashion industry, it’s NOT just an environmental issue-
It’s a human rights issue - a women’s rights issue.
So how do we get to a better place with all this?
Well first of all, we need to break from the addiction of consumption and reduce what we’re buying. We truly don’t need more than 2 weeks worth of clothing per season.
Next, shop second hand where possible- whether you’re looking in local consignment shops or online ones like ThredUp- buy items that have been previously loved and you’ll save them from the landfill.
You can also host a local clothes swap or join a Buy Nothing group- there may already be a group on FB or you can search the Buy Nothing project and find out how to start one.
Third, when buying new, choose products that are made from organic cotton, and labeled fairtrade- meaning that the workers who produced them are were not in sweatshop conditions.
And finally, buy items that are made of natural fibers- materials that if you put in your compost bin, will vanish in a year. These materials include, cotton, wood, hemp, bamboo, and linen.
Quick recap for those who skip to the end: