Reduce your clothing waste, and protect the environment, by wearing and buying secondhand.
According to Positive News, "An estimated 10,000 items of clothing are sent to UK landfill every five minutes, equating to more than 350,000 tonnes of wearable clothes being dumped in landfill each year. Most of us own at least one pair of jeans but few know it would take approximately 14 years to drink the amount of water used to make just a single pair."
The rise of 'fast fashion' has led to a huge increase in clothing waste, as well as increasing environmental damage, and adding to the dangerous cheap-labour industry.
There are positive steps towards a more sustainable clothing industry being taken, with 3.8 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste (PCTW) in the US being recycled every year. However, the Council for Textile Recycling estimate that the average US citizen throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles annually, making the recycled figure approximately 15% of all PCTW, leaving 85% in landfills.
These huge figures of waste have spurred the charity TRAID, to launch Secondhand first week (Monday 21-28th November 2016). They want to encourage people to stop being part of this cycle, and to instead buy and wear secondhand clothing, rather than always going for something new.
For Secondhand week, TRAID are asking for photos of you in your secondhand clothing, as well as holding various events from film nights and talks, to repair workshops and cloth swaps. For more information visit www.traid.org.uk/secondhandfirst-week-2016/
TRAID has been reusing and recycling clothing waste since 1999, and to date have committed over £1,505,802 to projects across the globe, improving social and environmental conditions in the textile industry as well as improving the working conditions of over 650,000 garment workers. They have also helped remove children from bonded and forced labour; supported cotton farmers to reduce and eliminate pesticide use; established co-operative textile businesses and developed eco-friendly textile production processes.
The positives of secondhand
- You can find unique pieces of clothing, that others don't have
- A lot of clothing that was made 10, 20, 30 years ago is of much better quality than the clothing made today
- Shopping in secondhand often means good quality but with a lower price tag
- You will be reducing the carbon footprint of each item of secondhand clothing, by extending its lifespan
- If you have sewing skills (or want to learn some - we tell you how in our next magazine issue, out in January) you could buy various different items and get creative, making your own clothes
- You will be preventing clothing from going to landfill
- You will be boycotting the 'fast fashion' industry that damages the environment and creates poor and dangerous conditions for workers, and helping to show the industry it needs to change.
So what can you do?
- Buy secondhand. Rummage through charity shops, vintage shops, car boot sales, thrift stores, Freegle, Freecycle, eBay, Depop and any other secondhand store/website.
- Start your own clothes swap. Invite your friends round, and swap clothes. You'll all end up with something new, whilst hopefully passing on those items you no longer want.
- Learn how to repair clothing items, so that they don't need throwing out.
- Make your own! Piece together old clothing or random pieces of fabric, and get creative. You'll end up with something that perfectly suits you and is totally unique.
- If you do have to/want to buy new, why not choose from an ethical company. One where you know; the materials have been grown organically, without harmful chemicals to people and the planet; are through a FairTrade scheme so farmers get a fair wage; where the factories hold a FairWear status so workers are being treated fairly, and even where the production factory is powered by renewable energy. Try and find companies that are transparent, so you can see the whole lifespan of the clothing you're wearing.
- If you're buying new, why not choose items that you know will stand the test of time. Like a sturdy winter coat, walking boots, or a good pair of jeans.
Some stats on fast fashion
In 2012, Treehugger shared 25 fashion industry statistics, including:
- In 2010, American households spent, on average, $1,700 on apparel, footwear, and related products and services.
- Consumers in the United Kingdom have an estimated £30 billion ($46.7 billion) worth of unworn clothes lingering in their closets.
- The Chinese textile industry creates about 3 billion tons of soot each year.
- Millions of tons of unused fabric at Chinese mills go to waste each year when dyed the wrong colour.
- $20 million is funneled into the New York City economy during fashion week.
- The world market for textiles made from organically grown cotton was worth over $5 billion in 2010.
The future of the fashion industry
As consumers, we have the power to change the fashion industry, through the choices we make. If we stop buying cheap clothes that are made on mass, by people on low wages and in harsh conditions, the industry will have to change.
There are currently several strategies working with various brands and retailers to move towards more sustainable fashion.
The Waste an Resources Action Plan (WRAP) work with governments, businesses, communities and think tanks, to reduce waste in food and drink, clothing and electronics. Their launch of The Sustainable Clothing Action Plan 2020 (SCAP) has already seen the reduction of water and carbon impacts within the clothing supply chain.
The action plan looks at:
- fibre and fabric selection
- designing for extended clothing life
- consumer behaviour and sustainable clothing
- resource efficient business models
- reuse and recycle.
The voluntary plan has already been adopted by 80 UK companies, pledging to reduce carbon footprints and water footprints by 15% and waste to landfill by 3.5%. Some of the companies to have signed up include John Lewis, ASOS, Cath Kidston, Next, Primark, New Look, Sainsbury's, Ted Baker London and (our friends) Rapanui.
This year, the European Clothing Action Plan (ECAP) was launched, with the first participants being, Bobo Choses, OVS, Peak Performance, Primark, and Star Sock. ECAP aims to develop a pan-European framework with practical actions to reduce carbon, water and waste footprints across clothing lifestyles. Through the help of ECAP, participants will follow three main aims:
- Divert 90,000 tonnes of clothing waste from landfill and incineration
- Save 1.6 million tonnes of CO2e
- Make 588 million m³ of water savings
If we could get all the clothing brands to sign up to these types of schemes, we could see huge improvements to water waste, the use of chemicals, the effects on the environment and to the welfare of people.
Let's be part of the change.
Choosing sustainable textiles - issue 82 of Permaculture magazine
Permablitz - grow a dress project - issue 85