It’s shocking: Second to petroleum – fashion/textiles is the most polluting industry in the world!
Prompted by Reanna’s comment about my “Bargain Blazer”, here are some jarring statistics and some painless but powerful things YOU can do to make a difference. And actually dress BETTER in the process.
- The average American woman spends $3400 on clothing each year – 64 items – and over half of it hangs in our closets virtually unworn.
- Americans discard 11 million tons of clothing annually.
- Only 10% of donated items end up on thrift store racks. The rest is typically shipped overseas where it piles up in landfills.
Discarded garments are just the tip of the iceberg – producing them in the first place wreaks both human and environmental havoc.
- Harvesting vast amounts of wood pulp to make viscose is destroying huge parcels of Brazilian and Indonesian rain forest.
- In India, chromium used in low-cost leather tanneries has killed off the marine plants and animals in the Ganges.
- It can take more that 20,000 liters of water to produce the cotton in a single T-shirt and jeans. The list could go on and on…
Yet so-called “fast fashion” retailers keep flooding the market with uber-cheap imported clothing – endlessly churning “must-have” trends and throw-away garments. And that price pressure has influenced “better” retailers to lower their prices … lowering their quality and selection in the process.
So how can they possibly make money selling $5 dresses and $8 jeans? You know exactly how – we just don’t want to think about human trafficking, child labor, slave labor, 18-hour work days and frequently-fatal working conditions.
Those companies ARE making money – more than most of us can even imagine. The chairman of H&M is 28th richest man in the world; Zara’s co-founder is #4 – IN THE WORLD. And Walmart’s owners aren’t exactly pinching their pennies either.
Individually you can’t do much. But collectively we and our friends and their friends can make a huge impact. Here are some steps to take:
- Refuse to EVER shop at “worst offender” retailers – Walmart, H&M, Forever 21, Zara, Gap and Old Navy are a few.
- No matter where you shop, don’t buy cheap, trendy things you don’t need, just because they are on sale.
- STOP bragging about bargain prices. Every time you say “I got it for just $__” you tell the world that’s all you feel you’re worth and that a cheap price is more important than quality clothes or eco-friendly, ethical production.
- COMPLAIN! Write or email fashion magazines and TV shows every time you see them glorifying cheap clothing. Not sure what to say? You’ll find a form letter at the end of this post. Adapt it or copy it verbatim.
- Looking for responsibly sourced clothing is great … but the real answer is to BUY LESS. Develop a wardrobe plan around your best colors and styles. Spend whatever it takes to get the RIGHT items in your closet. When you do that one thing, you’ll have so many combinations that you can dress better than ever and easily afford top quality in the pieces you buy.
- Scroll down to find a PLANNING CHART for a 12-piece wardrobe that can mix/match into nearly 100 combinations. And read more about this wardrobe concept in LOOKING GOOD .. Every Day.
Want to know more?
- Check out the book “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion”. You can find it at your local library.
- View the documentary “The True Cost”. Find that at truecostmovie.com.
- Watch John Oliver (Last Week Tonight) rant on this topic. Search “John Oliver Cheap Fashion” – but only if you can tolerate some salty language. I’m endorsing his message, not his vocabulary.
Dear _____ :
As a long-time reader (viewer) I am concerned to see your magazine (program) promoting wardrobe choices from fast-fashion retailers. Making and selling super-cheap clothing is a direct cause of human trafficking and exploitive working conditions around the world, environmental destruction, excessive waste and the loss of thousands of American jobs.
(Optional paragraph). Fashion/textiles is second only to petroleum as the most polluting industry around the world. An average American woman discards 84 pounds of textiles each – over 11 million tons annually overflowing landfills.
As a leading voice in the media, you have a responsibility to promote more responsible ways your audience can meet their wardrobe needs, or at a minimum to avoid encouraging this dangerous trend.
Use snail-mail, email, Facebook, blog comment sections and other vehicles to make your voice heard.