We are on course towards sustainable resource consumption.
Why is there more and more talk about eco-fabrics and in many cities, there are even freemarkets being held?
What activity does the buyer support economically by buying yet another T-shirt at the mall?
Clothing is made of either synthetic or natural materials. One of the most popular is polyester. Polyester is a product of oil refining, created through chemical synthesis. Yet, on the other hand, the cotton that everybody is so fond of isn’t all that harmless. It takes 2,700 liters of water to produce just one T-shirt, which is how much a person consumes in 900 days. Likewise, a lot of chemicals are used when whitening fabrics to make them absorb dye better, and in the dyeing process itself. All these processes have a negative impact on the environment. We mentioned this in our article “Plastic in your lungs”.
The textile industry also attracts attention with its working conditions. Just noting the danger to workers’ health and inappropriate, miserable wages is sufficient. The tragedy of 2013 in Bangladesh, in which more than 1,000 factory workers died as a result of a roof fall, sparked public outcry.
Now, all this effort, all these human rights violations, environmental poisoning… and where do the clothes go after use? Only a fraction of them are recycled or donated to charity. About three quarters of clothes are piled up in garbage dumps or burned. Add 60 billion m2 of trimmings to this, out of every 400 m2 of fabric that is discarded already in factories.
Making new clothes is obviously not so environmentally friendly. What about hand-me-downs? Will recycling help the planet?
Hand-me-down clothing comes from all over the world. Very rarely are these clothes that should have gone to charity. More often, they are bought from people, albeit for very small amounts, compared to what they sell for later.
These clothes are disinfected with formaldehyde vapors. Formaldehyde is a toxic substance, so clothes have to be washed thoroughly after purchase.
Huge sacks cross the border which are then sorted. Here, we can also take a look at working conditions as such work is often done by immigrants. They may be locked away in a warehouse and not allowed to leave until ceiling-sized racks are sorted. Also, if the clothes are not ventilated in advance, they tend to inhale toxic formaldehyde vapors. These clothes then go to the stores, waiting for their new owners.
Is there a way out?
As you can see, neither factories nor hand-me-downs, in terms of ecology and humanity, are perfect. What should a modern person do if he or she does not want to support these kinds of industries?
Going into dense forests, picking out fabric on one’s own? Sure, there are people who do exactly that, but none of this is necessary. You can buy things from brands that are environmentally friendly, from start to finish. They use organic fabrics, pay their employees well, etc.
But it can’t be just the clothing industry that is so “imperfect”. lmost all industries, in one way or another, are harmful to the environment, and the benefits of semi-slave and even slave labor is often difficult for owners to ignore. And what will happen to our wallets, if we buy each product from an exclusive, caring company? An important part of the problem is human overconsumption, and only being rational can help. People buy and discard, buy and discard, with no end in sight.
This part of the scale has to be balanced, too. Perhaps the second one will be balanced afterwards.