I’ve seen a lot of articles swimming around Facebook lately about textile waste and sadly, it’s true. The fashion industry is one of the leading causes of landfill waste on the Earth. The fashion industry produces 25 billion pounds (you read that correctly) of textiles per year, and roughly 22 billion pounds of that ends up in our landfills.
I’m really stoked that people are finally learning about this, but seamstresses have known about this for years. There’s a reason why many of us, myself included, have vowed not to purchase ready-to-wear clothing. I’ve spoken at length locally about the effects on our personal well-being and self-esteem when we purchase fast fashion, but the environmental and human stakes are high as well. The average garment worker overseas earns $.45 per hour. That’s roughly $4 per day to produce the fast fashion we buy in Forever 21 and H&M. But it’s also the fashion we buy in “high end” chains like J.Crew & Banana Republic.
When I lived in coastal GA I began and managed a textile recycling program as a volunteer for an inner city mission. We had a contract with a textile recycler in Florida who would pay us for the textiles we collected and bagged, and we used those profits to financially support the poor in the area. I really thought the donations would stop over time, but every month and a half we filled the back of an 18-wheeler with bags upon bags of unwanted clothing, shoes and accessories. I now know that companies like the one in Florida ship a lot of items overseas, which opens an entirely different can of worms.
So, why on earth should you give two shits about all of this? Simply put, how you spend your money matters. When you buy a $3 t-shirt from a fast-fashion chain, that purchase has an impact whether you see it or not. Your purchases contribute to a greater cycle of abuse of not only the planet but others across the globe.
How can you help? Buy only used or vintage clothing. Repurpose what you currently own into new garments. Learn to sew and make your own clothes. Be extremely mindful when you purchase clothing, and try to shop local if at all possible. Read the “About” section of different brands and learn about their ethical standing. It’s not hard to make a difference with a few small tweaks in your behavior.
What changes can you make to your personal buying habits in light of this information?