Eco Notes February

February 2024

Clothing industry (Part 1)

In this era of climate crisis, many are quick to blame certain sectors, anything but themselves or their own lifestyles in fact. In reality, most aspects of current living have an impact on the environment. This article examines the clothing industry. The topic invites discussion, even dissension. Some people are intrigued and delighted by fashion shows; thrilled by new designs; spend hours perusing shops to buy the latest fashions; buy on-line, where it is oh-so-easy to view, click and purchase; enticed by ‘three for the price of two’ offers – the latter two activities often result in the purchase of more clothes than are needed or, indeed, will ever be worn. Others are horrified at the prospect of needing to buy yet more clothes for their rapidly growing children, maybe facing severe financial hardship in so doing. Some buy many items of cheap, often poorly made, clothing, whilst others buyer fewer, more expensive, better made and longer lasting clothes. Yet others make their own clothes and upcycle, using old outfits to refashion new ones. Many go to charity or vintage shops and other outlets to buy ‘pre-loved’ clothes. Whichever category you belong to, several important points pertain:-

The clothing industry has a large environmental footprint.

The fewer clothes you buy, the lower the environmental impact.

Fast fashion relies on mass production (often involving child labour and poor work conditions), low prices and large volumes of sales, whereas circular fashion makes re-use and recycling easier and slow fashion produces fewer clothes of better quality.

A vast array of chemicals is used in the processing and production of garments, in addition to the environmental cost of water and energy.

When outfits are made in large factories, up to 20% of fabric is wasted in cut-offs.

Once made, the clothes must be transported and distributed, leading to further energy use in the form of transport fuel.

The bottom line is for us all to reduce how many outfits we purchase annually. Try retaining outfits for longer, clothes swaps, hiring outfits for smart occasions, jazzing up ‘tired’ outfits with a bright scarf or tie. For items no longer worn, give them to a charity or swap shop.