Monday, September 2, 2019

The Real Cost of Cheap Fashion

Being environmentally conscious means much more than driving a hybrid car, living off the grid, taking public transportation or eating less meat.  Have you ever thought of how your clothes buying habits impact our planet?

According a recent article in the New York Times, in 2018 the average person bought 68 garments a year.  On average each piece is worn seven times.  Another study says the average wear is only three times.  Our population growth is staggering.  It is predicted that our population will swell to 8.5 billion by 2030 and that will mean the world will collectively buy 63% more clothing (all from this article in the NYT).

To accommodate the demand for "fast fashion" companies off-shored manufacturing to the cheapest possible locations. In 1991 56.2% of all clothing purchased in the US was made here.  By 2012 only 2.5% was made here.   Fashion is still very labor intensive so that one out of every six people on the planet is employed in some way by the industry.  But yet fewer than 2% of garment workers earn a living wage.  And the industry is a big polluter, responsible for 20% of all industrial water pollution annually. The fashion industry releases 10% of the carbon emissions in our air according to a McKinsey study.

And what about the clothing waste?  Do you think all those clothes at H & M get sold?  20% go unsold. Leftover clothes are buried, shredded or burned.  Most clothing today is synthetic and therefore, not biodegradable. 

The fast fashion giants are trying to do better but it's certainly not in their financial best interests to really change a thing. Zara and H & M have launched capsule collections made with sustainable materials. 

But the biggest impact can be made by the consumer, people like you and me.  I for one am going to start buying a lot less.  How many pairs of shoes do you really need?  Do you need five pairs of black pants for winter?  And I read labels.  Where was this garment made? China, Vietnam, the US?  And what is the fabric content?  I have quit shopping at J Crew mostly due to the poor quality of their fabrics.

To sum it all up.........

1) Buy a lot less.
2) Buy better quality clothing that you will wear for years over and over again.

3) Read labels - origin?  Fabric content?
4) Is the garment hand or machine washable? Does it have to be dry cleaned?
5) Recycle your clothing. Sell your good quality clothing on Poshmark or Ebay or donate it.

We need to change a lot of things to make our planet more livable for future generations and even your clothing purchases have a real impact. Be stylish but help sustain our planet at the same time.

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