Our clothing habits have a far reaching impact. On a personal level, the clothing we wear every day effects our health, wallets, habits, and confidence. On a global level, the clothing we wear effects the environment and the wellbeing of the workers who made it.
why be clothing conscious?
Clothing is the second most polluting industry in the world. It is second to the oil industry. The apparel industry is also a large driver of the oil industry, as it demands large quantities of crude oil. Oil is used as a raw material for synthetic textiles as well as fuel for manufacturing.
Beyond pollution generated from using fossil fuels, the apparel industry has a number of dirty outputs and uses a lion’s share of natural resources as inputs.
Unfortunately, the trend right now is buying more product and more often. Retailers are spitting out 52 fashion seasons a year and the fabrics they’re using are not made to last, nor are they intended to. The production of synthetic clothing is polluting, the wear cycle is polluting, and the disposal is polluting.
Natural clothing can improve these habits and have significant and long lasting effects on our health and the environment. When buying natural clothing, you get a better value. Clothing made with natural fibers have a longer product lifespan, with a tendency to not pill or become bacteria laden (which can cause additional wear). Natural clothing can stay in your regular wardrobe cycle much longer than their synthetic fast fashion counterparts.
Why dress your body with anything less? You most likely wear clothing for the majority of the day. Your clothing is in contact with the majority of your body for extended periods of time and during activities of various exertion. Synthetic fabrics are made of and treated with a number of harmful chemicals, and are also proven to harbor bacteria significantly more than natural fibers. If you’re obsessing with what you put in your body, great! You should be. You should also be looking at what you’re putting on your body. A healthy wardrobe with natural clothing will bring your wellness game to the next level.
our impact with natural clothing
As consumers, we’re becoming more responsible with our purchasing power. It’s now instinctual to check the full ingredient list of an item before tossing it into our cart at the supermarket, or to scan the product label of a sunscreen, lotion, or lipstick. We’re looking for ingredients that we recognize. We’re also looking to make sure that the product is natural and organic.
When we push, the markets respond. We’ve seen some amazing effects of our power as consumers. We need to continue to push forward to understand what we’re buying and who we are supporting. We need to understand that as consumers we are activists. Every purchase we make – and every purchase we don’t make – sends a message.
When buying, our main concerns include:
How healthy is this for me?
How does this product effect the environment?
Is the product sourced ethically? How was it produced?
Where will this product end up?
Who is receiving my money and what message am I sending them?
This is a common internal conversation in supermarkets, restaurants, pharmacies, and beauty aisles. Unfortunately, most of us are currently overlooking one of the biggest industries that is largely unchecked by consumer self-regulation. This is the apparel industry.
the apparel industry in numbers
The apparel industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions.
The apparel industry is currently a $3 trillion global industry. The United States’s share of the market accounts for almost a full third of the global total. This should be no surprise. Fast fashion providers have split what was a two season per year market (Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer) into 52 micro seasons. That means designs are drawn up, produced, and shipped out weekly. Where is all of that fast fashion going?
On average, an American throws away 102 lbs of clothing and textiles every year. At this rate, America alone is projected to throw away over 33 billion pounds of clothing and textiles over the course of this year alone.
Not only are these textiles filling landfills and contributing to carbon emissions, but the manufacturing and maintenance of synthetic textiles is a significant source of water and air pollution as well. These textiles contribute to the number of toxins we are exposed to every day as individuals.
It’s time we start understanding fabrics. We need to start paying as close attention to what we put on our bodies as we do to what we put in them.
the benefits of natural clothing
The benefits of natural clothing are far reaching and long lasting. Natural fabrics are significantly easier on the environment. From processing to biodegrading, found fibers use much less energy, create fewer byproducts, and leave much less behind than their manmade alternatives.
Natural clothing is also much kinder to our skin. Those with allergies, sensitive skin, or maybe a baby already know that natural clothing is much less likely to provoke irritations. Further, natural fabrics are much less likely to attract and harbor odor causing bacteria.
Natural clothing also has one up on synthetic fabrics in terms of longevity. Natural fibers hold quality longer, at least as long as an expected lifespan of an article of clothing, yet still biodegrade. Synthetic fabrics on the other hand, have a higher tendency to pill and loose quality in their appearance faster. Pilling is when those little balls of fiber start to appear on a fabric after some wear, usually starting in areas of high contact, like armpits or near a pocket.
Synthetic fabrics also last an incredibly long time in a landfill. For example, a cotton sock biodegrades in about 3 months in a landfill. A nylon sock on the other hand, breaks down in about 30 to 40 years. Many of these synthetic clothing pieces can even last 200 years and more in a landfill, emitting harmful pollutants as they slowly break down.
Invest in your health, invest in the environment, invest in your wardrobe.