With May just a few months away, and as I enter into the final stretch of my year long #NoNewClothes challenge, I am realizing that after everything I have learned this year – there is no way I can go back to being the mindless consumer and promoter of fashion that I was in the past.
Every time I find myself seduced by a new trend, or the allure of glamor that a sponsored clothing ad on Instagram dangles in front of me, I remember these indisputable facts.
*The global fashion industry is responsible for 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
*Today 60% of all clothing produced is disposed of within the same year it was purchased.
*The fashion industry creates more Co2 than maritime shipping and international travel combined.
*20% of all industrial water pollution is caused by the textile process.
*1/2 a trillion gallons of water is used in the textile dyeing process annually.
I want to acknowledge the source for all these facts and information: The “Soil to Soil” episode with Rebecca Burgess on my favorite podcast For the Wild by Ayana Young. I consider it to be the ultimate resource for environmental and social justice awareness and education. Ayana has profoundly changed my life and I encourage you to listen to this episode (and others) — not just to educate yourself on the reality of our predicament — but to be inspired by the end of the episode in which Rebecca leaves us with a message of hope.
In a world where we are running out of clean water, how can we, in good conscience, continue this madness? And I hate to say it but global sales of clothing are only projected to increase.
Depressing right? When I allow the scale of the problem to sink in, I feel disillusioned about the futility of my personal #NoNewClothes challenge. And while I hope my journey has inspired more than a few of you, I also feel rage at the larger industrial fashion complex.
Why should all the responsibility be on the consumer? Where is the fashion industry’s accountability for the damage they are doing to our earth and our bodies?
Did you know that 25% of chemicals produced worldwide are solely used for textile manufacturing? And that these chemically processed and dyed clothes are also endocrine disrupters causing diseases like cancers plus auto immune and nervous system disorders? It’s not just our GMO grown food that is poisoning us, but now we can also blame the synthetically dyed nylon, polyester, and viscose we are wearing for all these mysterious illnesses, the symptoms of which manifest as chronic fatigue, unexplained weight gain, infertility, etc. We are literally killing ourselves and the planet for fashion.
When you look beyond the glamorous images that the fashion industry not so subtly bombards us with daily, and peek behind the curtain, I cant think of anything uglier than this system we have designed to serve only one thing — unlimited growth and profit at the expense of life on earth. If we don’t change course, our children will be asking us if it was all worth it.
Yes, refusing new clothes and buying second-hand clothing will be a step in the right direction. As consumers we can cause radical change by our consumption or anti-consumption choices.
No, the answer is not turning plastic into clothes. These are green-washing tactics that only serve to put more micro plastics into our water sources.
The enormous problem of wearing and washing clothes made from plastic (like nylon and polyester), which is a derivative of petroleum, has led to our water tables being completely infiltrated by plastic. Did you know that 94% of American drinking water contains plastic microfibers? I refuse to continue to contribute to this destruction.
That is why I am making the personal vow to NEVER buy any new clothes made from these synthetic fibers ever again in my life. And those that I do already own I pledge to wash in a Guppy Bag which reduces the leakage of micro plastics into our waters. But is it enough? Without major reform from the fashion industry, the righteous pledges of a few of us will not have much of an impact.
But what about the designers and retailers and all the people who make their living from these industries? Aren’t we going to take away their livelihoods and strip them of their creativity? Trust me, I have a lot of friends in the fashion world. My intention is not to put them out of a job, but my plea to them is to reimagine and recreate their brands and the fashion industry as a whole, so it is not a perpetrator of ecocide.
When there is no more clean water left on this earth we are not going to feel very glamorous. We can’t drink the latest trend.
I know this column has been a bit on the heavy side. I promise I will dedicate next month’s column to ways I think the fashion industry could transform in order to minimize harm — which will ironically involve maximizing creativity. If we, as consumers, can halve our consumptions and double our use of our clothes, we might make it.
And then after changing our old consumption habits, we can start creating new economies based on circular fashion systems that create clothes that actually FEED and REPLENISH our soil. Clothes that you can compost! These local textile industries are being revived again in certain parts of the US. It is a dream of mine to visit Rebecca Burgess on her farm in North California to witness firsthand the alternative fashion society she has created and centered around earth stewardship without sacrificing style. I also highly recommended her own podcast Soil to Soil and her landmark book Fibershed — a must for anyone interested in approaching growing textile crops and creating clothes in a better way. A way that actually heals the earth and doesn’t destroy it.
Thank you again for tuning in and until next month..