How to save the environment one pair of jeans at a time.
Do you know how many gallons of water it takes to make one pair of jeans?
According to Penn State University, to manufacture one pair of jeans, it takes about 9,982 gallons of water. Society does not think about the cost that is not attached to the garment. In the culture we live in, we want to find the best deals for the lowest prices while staying on trend. The impact this lifestyle has on the environment is detrimental, but through simple life changes, it is easy to make the switch to buying more sustainable clothing.
Fast fashion is the byproduct of the runway or celebrity styles that are now on trend. Companies such as H&M, Forever21, and Walmart are quick fashion producers. When a new trend comes out, the companies make the clothing fast and cheap, cutting corners is common. Haven’t you ever thought about how they can sell a coat for only 20 dollars?
Fast fashion causes concern for the environment because it leads to water pollution, leads to the use of toxic chemicals, leads to threatening animal’s lives, and leads to the increasing amount of textile waste. Not to mention the unethical labor practices that are in place to make the clothing so cheap.
Let us review the amount of water to make a pair of jeans. To produce a pair of jeans, it takes a little more than 1,900 gallons just in the cleaning of the textile and making the garment. After the jeans go through multiple dying processes to get the achieved wash. Also, the regular washes it needs to get cleaned in between the procedures.
The apparel and footwear industry contributes about 8 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, while the apparel industry alone contributes about 6.7 percent to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Let us dig a little deeper into how the apparel industry emits so much greenhouse gasses. According to The Woodstock Art Reef Project, “the processes from raw material to garment supply contribute to around one-third of the waste footprint, three-quarters of the carbon impact, and most of the water footprint.” Fiber productive, production of yarn, and dyeing and finishing are the main contributors to waste.
The dyeing and finishing process has the most significant impact amongst all three. According to Giulia Panna, a writer for VILDA: Luxe Vegan Living Blog, says, “fabric dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean waters.” says Panna. Toxic chemicals, such as nonylphenol, are used to achieve the colors, patterns, softness, and waterproofing that we want in our clothing. Nonylphenol is a chemical that is toxic to aquatic life.
According to Bethany Noble, a writer for the Good on You blog, about 20 percent of the industrial water pollution in the world comes from the dyeing and finishing processes. According to Noble, on average each textile mill dumps millions of chemically treated garments back into lakes and streams, and in one year a mill uses about 1.5 billion cubic meters of freshwater. Not only is it the dying of the fabrics, but the making of them as well. Cotton another main contributor that pollutes our waterways and lakes. According to Noble, the insecticides used to treat the cotton contributes to about 24 percent of the world’s insecticide use, causing runoff into lakes and streams.
The textiles in clothing are made up of tiny microfibers, usually in polyester. These microfibers, little slivers of plastic, are small enough to get past all the filters and cleaning, ending up in our oceans and lakes. The microfibers get into our water systems through washing our clothes. According to Bethany Noble, there are about 19,000 microfibers released every time someone washes a polyester garment. These minute strains of plastic are not biodegradable and contribute to the increasing liter of plastic in our oceans. One thing to reduce the risk of microfibers is to use biodegradable soaps and to lint filters to help contain some of the harmful materials.
“The fashion industry is heading down a dangerous slope when it comes to environmental issues and human rights.'” Although the popularity in sustainability has increased, fast fashion companies like Forever 21, H&M, and Zara, are only growing as they are learning how to greenwash their customers into promoting themselves as “sustainable” when in fact that statement is just a marketing gimmick.
“There cannot be sustainability where there is fast fashion. When there are 52 seasons of trends within one year as there is with fast fashion, clothes are continuously being thrown out after a couple of months and are not made with fabric that can hold up. The current model is completely about quantity over quality, and this will continue to do damage to people and the world as it has been for forty years. The fast fashion companies are just too big & powerful. If change were to happen, it’d be within the customers of these companies,” said Rachel Drehmel, Apparel Design student at UW-Stout.
About 50 years ago, they bought quality over quantity. Spent more on items rather than buying multiple pieces that were bought cheap and made even cheaper; society now buys 400 percent more clothing than it did. Polyester and certain nylons are the only textiles that can be reused today because the blended fibers in clothing today, it is much harder to separate the strands. For example, you cannot recycle a pair of pants made from 99 percent cotton and 1 percent spandex due to the blend of spandex into the cotton. Simple changes in someone’s lifestyle can lead them to adopt a few sustainable practices.
This throw-away culture has poisoned the American public and our environment, must evolve to save the planet. Thrifting and donating clothes has become such an apparent thing to see nowadays, which is excellent! Thrifting is a great way to find new clothing pieces while saving the planet. A person can find brand new clothing pieces while thrifting, what a score!
In part, technology has enhanced the thrifting experience to take on a whole new meaning. If you do not want to go and sift through racks of other people’s clothing, hop onto one of the many apps that make thrifting possible online. Mercari, Poshmark, Thredup, and DePop are all online thrifting sites. These apps also allow people to create their very own little shop, instead of donating old clothes, snap a picture and make a quick buck. Fashion is on a cycle, something that was popular in the 1970s is bound to be popular again in the coming years. Another way to avoid throwing away old clothes is to wash them and then cut them into rags. Use the cloths for outside work, napkins, or housework, such as dusting. If you are reading this and thinking, “oh my gosh, not ever buying anything new ever again, I cannot do that!” It is not about not buying anything new; it is more about what the company’s practices are.
The innovative company, Patagonia, is doing their part to not only build their buildings to be more sustainable, but to make their apparel more sustainable too! Patagonia uses many recycled textiles or textiles made from a renewable source that does not affect the environment. For example, Refibra Lyocell is 80 percent wool and 20 percent organic cotton scraps. Their Yulex is a plant base polymer, a natural rubber, Patagonia’s wetsuits use Yulex, which reduces emissions of CO2 up to about 80 percent. Keep in mind the practices before purchases; otherwise, thrifting or second-hand shopping is always better. Be innovative, be practical, be smart with your textile consumption and waste.
When shopping keep in mind what you are putting into your cart, ask yourself, would the environment be proud?