The Clothing Industry and its Effects on the Environment

The Clothing Industry and its Effects on the Environment

    I originally shared this article on my blog last year but wanted to re-share my thoughts on a topic which I find extremely interesting and extremely important. I hope you guys don’t mind and I hope you find this just as though provoking as I did.

    Last year I read an article on the BBC News app called “The Real Price of Buying Cheap Clothes”, where their business correspondent shared a range of facts and figures on how shopping trends have changed and the damage the fashion industry is having on the environment.

    Now if I’m completely honest, I’m Chloe and I’m a shopaholic. This may sound shallow, but whenever I’m in a bad place, buying clothes or shoes generally makes me happy. It makes my bank account cry, but it offers me a joy that I simply cannot explain.
    That being said, I’m incredibly conscious of our effect on the planet and am doing everything I possibly can to help reduce the damage I cause to our world.

    So obviously one of the biggest issues with the fashion industry is the use of sweatshops and I’m simply horrified by the dire conditions the workers are facing every day.
    To read a little more about these issues please do check out the original BBC post as they explain the issues far better than I ever can. Those who risk their lives just to earn a living every day deserve far better than the rantings of a girl from Bristol on her WordPress site.

    For the duration of this post I’m going to be discussing the effects our shopping habits are having on the environment and will be sharing figures which have come from the BBC article mentioned earlier.

    Whilst reading the article, there were three facts which particularly stood out and which particularly shocked me.
    1. It’s claimed that textile productions “contributes more to climate change than aviation and shipping combined” with consequences at every stage of a clothing item’s life cycle – sourcing, production, transport, retail, use and disposal.

    2. Cotton is a thirsty b***h plant.
    The UK House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Comittee have recently highlighted that a single shirt and pair of jeans can take up to 20,000 litres of water to produce. It concluded that “we are unwittingly wearing the fresh water supply of central Asia”.

    3. A million tonne of clothes are disposed of every year with 20% of these items ending up as landfill.
    I look at that last figure and basically ask how? How can so many people just throw away so many items?
    In my head I’m thinking why on earth are they not taking their clothes to charity shops? It helps raise funds for a good cause, and it’s better for the environment, but then I remember, recently I’ve found a number of charity shops are refusing goods as they simply do not have the space. They’re inundated with donations and cannot sell enough to keep up.

    My next though is “okay, why not recycle the clothes”? Then I remember how frustrated I am at the moment with our recycling collectors.
    My partner is trying to recycle a pile of socks he no longer wears. We’ve checked our local council’s website and it advises fabrics can be recycled in the correct bin. Tuesday night I come home and for the third week in a row the collection people have left the socks in the bin. I’ve tried to report to the council and they’ve simply not replied.
    What do I do in this situation? I know these items can and should be recycled. Do I suck it up and simply throw them in the trash, contributing to the issue, or continue to have this silent battle?
    Seriously, any advice would be greatly received, I honestly do not know what to do! 

    You look at the situation and you ask, surely there’s something that can be done to at least try and resolve some of these issues?
    The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has pitched 18 recommendations to the government such as sewing lessons in school and reducing the rate of VAT on clothing repair services, but I honestly don’t believe the quality of clothing is the issue.
    Just think how many charity shops are filled with brand new clothes, many of which still have their original labels attached.

    The problem is globalisation.
    I know this is an incredibly sweeping statement, but fashions are constantly changing and brands are relentlessly working to keep up to date with catwalks around the world. Brands like Zara can see a new season trend on a catwalk, and have their replica on their racking within 3 weeks.
    To see a change, I think we also need to see a change in celebrity culture when it comes to fashion.
    In a recent poll 1 in 6 social media influencers admitted to “not wearing an outfit again once it’s been on social media”. This honestly baffles me. If you love an outfit, why would you not want to keep wearing it?
    It such a shame to think people like Kim Kardashian hold so much power over the world and could make such a huge difference. Just imagine the influence she could have on the fashion industry if she were to promote sustainable fashion.

    With the clothing demand forecast predicted to rise by the equivalent of 500 billion t-shirts over the next decade, we start to ask what else can be done to tackle this issue?
    Critics ask why the government aren’t adding a tax to clothing, but I think it’s fair to say we all know how fragile the high-street is currently. It’s getting to the point that our shopping centres have as many empty stores as as they do full. The more stores we loose, the more people are finding themselves unemployed and the more fragile our economy is becoming.

    Of course we do have a number of big name brands leading the way in sustainable fashion with Zara pledging to switch to 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025 and brands like H&M and M&S “looking to improve how they source and their processes”, but it really is a select few in a market of thousands.

    Businesses need to make money and now a days we want everything cheap and we want it fast. It’s just a shame this comes with such a high cost for the environment.

    If I’m completely honest, I’m a little embarrassed by the fact so much of this post came as a shock to me and you may be thinking “well duh”. The figures mentioned have really awoken me to the issues and has definitely encouraged me to change my shopping habits. I mean, for me it’s not going to be easy. I’m weak and shopping is my Achilles heel (as I said, when my mental health is taking a dip so does my bank balance) but I promise I’m going to make a conscious effort to make a change.
    I just hope that perhaps this post could possibly encourage a few others to reevaluate their shopping too. Even if just a few of us make a change, we’ll be helping the world in our own way.

    Images courtesy of Google Images and MissSelfridge’s Instagram. 

    • Caroline B Caroline B :

      Thank you for these important reminders about how harmful the fashion industry is to the environment. In the past few years I've been trying to change my habits around shopping as well. One thing I've found can be done easily is selling my clothes. I use apps like Poshmark and Mercari, where you can both sell and shop. Now, if I see something I love online, I can look it up on Poshmark and find the same item second hand, which is both cheaper and better for the environment! 

      2 years ago 
    • Lisa C Lisa C :

      I agree! Last year I decluttered my closet and I realized how much I bought over the years. Now when I want to buy something, I evaluate the product and leave it in my cart for a few days. 

      2 years ago 
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