Greener Closets for People and the Planet - Written for The Walleye Magazine, October 2023 Issue
By Denise Smith, Rethinking Waste Coordinator, EcoSuperior
With autumn in full swing, fall fashions have hit the racks and online retailers. We might have a full closet already, but stylish and affordable clothes are just a tempting click away. Snapping up new trends these days may be quick and easy, but what does that mean for people and the planet? Fast fashion is cheaply made clothing that moves quickly from trend to trend. Before the 1990s, people purchased fewer clothes, less often, and most were made in North America. Clothes were more expensive, but they were of higher quality and made to last. Since then, clothing has become less about necessity and more about consuming the latest styles. We now buy five times as much clothing and on average wear it less than a dozen times before discarding it.
Fast fashion may be cheap, but it comes at a high price. To keep prices low, retailers outsource garment factories located in developing countries, with lax environmental and labour laws that fail to protect the land, water, and workers. Clothing production contributes to 10% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Toxic dyes and textile fibres dumped into waterways make the fast fashion industry one of the largest polluters of clean water globally. Each time we wash them, low-quality clothes shed plastic microfibers into our water, which is consumed by wildlife and ourselves. Fast fashion has resulted in clothes that have become so cheap they are nearly worthless. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, in 2018 the world produced more than 17 million tons of textiles while also dumping 11.3 million tons in landfills.
We can break free of the fast fashion cycle. Shop sustainably and economically by thrifting, sharing, and swapping clothes. Extend the life of your wardrobe by learning how to repair rips, replace buttons, or by bringing items to a tailor or cobbler. Attend repair workshops happening around town or watch online tutorials if you need help learning how to get started. When buying new, focus on well-made clothes and timeless designs that will last for years to come. If it's within budget, purchasing from companies that are known for their environmental awareness and use sustainable fabrics such as wool, organic hemp, cotton, and linen is a step in the right direction.
Creating a sustainable and ethical wardrobe is made of small actions, and each step towards greening our closet builds us a healthy future for people and the planet.