I remember when I was a child back in the 90`s, my mother had our clothes handmade. We would purchase the fabric, usually linen, then we would take it to the seamstress and go through the fashion magazines to choose the perfect outfits. The nice lady took our measurements and we came back a few days later hoping that our order would be ready to be picked up. Sometimes we left empty handed because the piece of clothing still needed adjustment. Nowadays this is called “slow fashion”. It costs more, it takes more time but what comes out of it is always special.
Things have definitely changed. As years went by having handmade clothing was no longer cool. My family and I, like many people, became infatuated with the fast and cheap convenient clothes that are bad for us, for those who make them and the environment.
A lot of the fabrics we use today are synthetic and come from plastic. The most common are (everything I unfortunately have in my wardrobe): polyester, nylon, acrylic and lycra or spandex.
Synthetic fabrics gained prominence after World War II. Their popularity increased when the media went after women, just like cigarettes.
I know I am departing from my subject, but have you noticed lately some heavily spread wine campaigns, targeting exhausted mothers? I swear it works. I`ve had some wine drinking binges because Facebook said I deserved it and I know you did too. Seriously? Are we that gullible? Ladies watch out, they are out to get us!
Sorry, let`s get back on track
The textile industry is the 3rd largest in the world and it is responsible for 20% of the water pollution. The production of these synthetic fabrics involves 8000 harmful chemical products and they get into the fabrics through processes like separation, bleaching, dying, washing, applying more chemicals and washing again. To make things worse, the contamination continues years after clothes leave the store, every time we do laundry, microplastics leach into the water and continue harming aquatic life and us. Also, beware of anything static resistant, stain resistant, permanent press, wrinkle-free, stain proof or moth repellant. More chemicals are used for these processes to give us what we demand.
Then there is the social aspect of the industry. Some parts in India, for example, prioritize the use of their water to the large textile factories to supply the west, leaving their population with highly contaminated or very little water. Not to mention the exploitation of workers. But I am not getting into that. If you want to learn more about this subject, read Killer Clothes, a great book by Doctors Brian and Anna Clement.
Ok, before I give you good news I will give you a little bit more of bad news.
According to Dr. Christina Dean , environmentalist founder and CEO of Redress and NGO, scientists found out that 58% of the pollution that comes from a piece of clothing is caused by us. Americans throw away an average of 80 pounds of clothes per year. The average lifetime of a cloth is approximately 3 years. But, the good news is if we were to extend their wearable life by only three months, it would reduce waste generation, carbon and water footprints by five to ten percent.
What can we do to minimize our impact?
Before you shop for clothes ask the WH questions. Who made them? What materials were used? Where were they made? How were they made? Bonus question, How is it going to be disposed once it is no longer wearable?
Other things you can do to minimize your environmental footprint are:
- Make your clothes last. See, I have always been pretty secretive about this because I was afraid of being made fun of and now I am telling the world lol. Ever since I started buying my own clothes I made sure they lasted by not washing them too often. I would get home and let them air dry before putting them away. For shirts at least 3 good wears and pants or heavier clothes more than that. If you are not used to doing that it may feel weird but think about the waters and the animals you`ll be saving. Consider armpit pads, but make sure they are reusable and made of eco -friendly materials.
- Buy used clothes at thrift shops and tell your friends you accept their used outfits. I haven`t bought clothes in a very long time thanks to a very special friend of mine. And as for my kids, I hit the “thrifts” when my oldest outgrows her clothes, and I find amazing deals every time. I found that the big ones like Goodwill and Salvation Army are good, but I get the coolest pieces at the smaller hidden shops. Ask around and someone will let you know about the one nearest to you. Often times you will find clothes made of cotton and linen. Score!
- When you do buy new clothes, invest in a few high quality pieces that you can use for a long time and give it to someone else after. If you can, buy sustainable fabrics like hemp, linen, wool, silk and organic cotton. But please do not abuse cotton because even though it can be organic it takes 290 gallons of water to make one cotton shirt. If you cannot find these fabrics in local stores, there are plenty of online stores that sell good quality clothing.
My humble advice would be – handle your clothes with care, treat them like you treat your jewelry, be mindful when purchasing them, and be grateful for all the resources used to make your piece of clothing.
What are your thoughts on this subject? Did you like the tips? Do you do anything different that you would like to add?
Please make sure to share and increase awareness 🙂
Also check out my mother-in-law`s new book https://www.amazon.com/Nina-Lekka/e/B01M8OB3N3
Zen pain relif balm that I sell on eBay https://www.ebay.com/itm/Zen-Relief-Balm-Sports-Muscle-aches-and-pain-20-grams-/282694566003?hash=item41d1e8c073:g:bpEAAOSwm3ZZq1-H