The movement to understand the footprint of everything that we consume is gathering momentum in the west – just think about the amount of press related to our carbon footprint. Alongside this well know footprint, the issue of our clothing footprint is increasingly being discussed. This in loose terms is the catch all term to cover the impact that our clothes have on the environment from growing the crops to make the cloth for the item of clothing to the manufacturing, shipping and distribution, the buying, wearing and disposal of everything that we wear.
It has been concluded that our clothing affects the environment and people in four main ways:
- Through over-exploitation of raw materials ie 2900 litres of water is needed to make just one 250g cotton t-shirt.
- Through toxicity from man made dyes – many dyes that are used in the clothing manufacturing process contain nickel,lead and chromium VI – all known carcinogens in humans.
- Use of fuel – as our clothing tends to be made in the Far East (and parts of Eastern Europe) where labour and manufacturing costs are lower the clothing has to be moved from there to Western Europe and North America via ships and planes (to a lesser degree).Meaning every item made has an additional fuel cost (both monetary and environmental) on it.
- Labour exploitation. There has been a lot of press about labour conditions in the Far East where hours are long, pay is small and conditions are often hazardous to health.
Suggested solutions to the above issues which are getting a lot of media coverage are:
- Buying clothing made from more sustainable sources ie recycled cotton, recycled nylon and polyester, hemp and linen.
- Buying clothing made from natural dyes
- Considering the issue of fair trade when buying clothing meaning that the producers receive a fair profit from their labours – not negotiated into the ground by global retailers.
- Consider buying clothing which is produced in Europe so that the carbon footprint is much lower.
I’m not hear to preach about buying sustainable clothing as the range of sustainable clothing is as of now, not sufficient to meet all the requirements I require in my clothing. However, I do know that I can contribute to alleviate our clothing footprint by helping clients with their wardrobe audits.
So how can having a Wardrobe Audit help this situation?
- By having and maintaining a smaller wardrobe from the time of your wardrobe audit you will automatically buy less clothing and going forward your clothing footprint will therefore be smaller
- By recycling your clothing when you have finished with it – either by donating it to a charity shop, swapping it with friends or at a swishing event or even selling it on ebay. In all cases the clothing gets another lifespan with another user. A win win solution to clothing that has reached its useful lifespan with one person but is still in a wearable condition.
- By reusing – either by mending, altering or dying – clothing can be given a new lease of life and made to last much longer.
- By reducing – by buying less clothing. If you understand what colours and shapes of clothing and accessories and shoes you should be wearing you will inevitably buy less items as you will happily wear what you have more and for longer without the need to constantly go out to buy more clothing items. You will know that what you own and wear really suits and flatters you and so there will be no need to keep chasing that illusive item that really suits you… as you will already own it! Knowing what suits us and what shapes and colours and patterns we should be looking for will make shopping in pre loved or charity shops much more successful for us too.
To close – a couple of statistics to make you thing. Half of the UK population admits to throwing clothing in the bin which then goes straight into landfill. This equates to 350,000 tonnes of clothing into landfill each year. Also, 30% of the clothes in our wardrobes haven’t been worn in the last year – if at all.
For any questions about this blog or to contact me to find out how I could help you dress well call 07500 443974. If you like this blog please share with your friends and/or comment and to get regular updates on what to buy and how to wear it please like my facebook business page and subscribe to my monthly newsletter on my homepage.