How to Be Conscious of Your Fashion Footprint

by Tatiana Orr

According to environmental studies, we produce around 13 million tons of textile waste globally every year. Most of the waste happens post-consumption which means clothes and shoes are being thrown away after they are purchased with an annual average of 70 pounds per person 95% of which could have been recycled. When textiles are thrown away they usually end up being incinerated or sit in landfills where it can take over 200 years to decompose releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. Not only that, the fashion industry is responsible for 20% of global water waste with production practices. For example, it takes 5,000 gallons of water just to make a t-shirt or a pair of jeans. Chemical dyes can use 25-40 gallons of water for every 2 pounds of fabric and are often dumped back into our water supply with residual dye and hazardous chemicals leftover. Cotton farming uses 20,000 liters of water and is responsible for 24% of insecticides and 11% of pesticides. There is also the issue of synthetic fibers and clothes produced in fast fashion that are made from toxic materials to begin with. 

While this might seem like a lot of information there are full reports that detail the exact amount of waste fashion contributes to the environment every year. The numbers were climbing for decades before the industry decided to start recognizing that the need for sustainability is not an option anymore. Even still, there is very little regulation when it comes to enforcing the changes that are needed to cut the statistics in half and no real legislation that would hold these companies responsible for the ways they negatively affect global warming. 

We are all guilty of being unaware of just how much our fashion footprint was adding to climate change in one way or another. All we can do now is focus on changing that! Thankfully there are so many easy ways to do that. Here are 4 things you can do to make sure you are not adding to the textile waste: 

  • Recycle or Upcycle
  • There are textile recycling services that accept used and worn down clothing that you can donate even the most tattered of rags to. You can check out organizations like Terracycle or Fabscrap. Get creative and upcycle! Take old clothing or fabric and turn it into something else. Transform an old sweater into a dress you can make small alterations or take the clothes apart and create something wholly new. 

  • Donate
  • Most already know to donate to thrift stores, but you should also consider other places for people with less means to shop. Foster homes and adoption centers are overlooked as places to donate old clothes, shoes, bags, and supplies to. Of course you should only donate wearable things, but some of these children go for months and years wearing clothes that don’t fit or are so worn down it's hardly wearable. Churches and shelters are other great places with people in need to donate too. Giving always feels good and what is not wearable to you could turn into someone’s favorite piece. 

  • Shop Sustainably
  • With hundreds of thrift stores worldwide and countless reselling sites second hand is always an option to find new and used clothes sometimes in perfect condition. If you prefer to buy straight from the brand, then you should do your research and really commit to shopping at fashion companies that are committed to having sustainable practices like Brother Vellies, Everlane, or Patagonia. 

  • Change the Way You Do Laundry
  • This one requires more effort because you have to pay attention to care tags, but changing your laundry habits can help cut down on water waste immensely. The campaign #WhatsInMyWash is a wonderful resource for learning how laundry adds to pollution. Some key things to research are better detergents you can use, do less cycles of laundry, air dry instead of using the dryer, and take better care of your clothing overall. 

    If we all do our part, erasing pieces of our individual fashion footprint will change the industry of fashion as a whole by forcing brands to care about having sustainable practices, and can lead to less pollution and waste. It is a very easy fix to one of the many problems that is hurting our ecosystem.

    Sources: EPA / Edge Expo / Fashion Revolution / World Wildlife

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