Saturday, February 24, 2018
Dressed to kill
As far as most clothing retail outlets are concerned, people like me are a dead loss. I spend most of my time in T-shirts, jumpers and jeans or, when I'm not well, PJs and a dressing gown. I wear my favourite clothes until they fall apart, after being repaired. I spend most of my money on necessities like food and heating, so don't contribute much to our consumer economy. My habits may not do much for that, but they do mean that my contribution to the global waste mountain and sea pollution is minimal. It wasn't planned that way but it's good that it did.
A report in The Telegraph last year claimed that British people spend an average of £1042 annually on clothes. Women spend more than men, and a lot of that is on cheap clothing that may be worn a few times, if at all, then thrown away. For the same amount of money, assuming you can afford to spend that much, you can buy good quality British made clothing that will last for years. So, maybe the fashion industry and cheap clothing retailers wouldn't like it, but you'd earn lots of ethical Brownie points.
It used to be considered enough to donate stuff to your local charity shop, as well as buy from there, but all the stuff that doesn't get sold was bundled off to second-hand clothing markets in Africa and Asia, and they don't want it any more. They're overwhelmed already, and it puts their local producers out of business. They certainly don't want your old clothes in places where there's been a disaster of some sort, like a hurricane. So where does it go instead? Landfill, where a high proportion won't rot down because it's made from synthetic materials, the manufacture of which used huge amounts of water and petroleum by-products, among other nasties. We're supposed to be reducing landfill.
To earn maximum Brownie points your ethical wardrobe should be made from natural fibres - wool, cotton, linen, and other vegetable products - so that when they eventually wear out they will decompose naturally, even go on the compost heap, and not pollute the oceans with the microfibres that escape in the laundry. They'll end up in the sea creatures' systems as well as yours, when you eat any of them. A couple of entrepreneurs have invented a laundry bag that will trap fibre particles, but that will be a drop in the ocean (pardon the pun) in terms of stemming the flow.
So here's the finger-wagging bit. It's not enough to write to your MP and Top Shop, or wherever you buy your outfits. What's in your wardrobe?
WRAP - Valuing our clothes: the cost of UK fashion.
How your clothes are polluting our oceans and food supply.
Useful natural fibre clothing information from a blogger.
The limits of ethicality in international markets: imported second-hand clothing in India.
CBS News: Is the fashion industry ready to change its wasteful ways?