For Love of Nature: High costs to planet for cheap fashion | Lifestyles

We are not only what we eat but what we wear.

Though we rarely hesitate to buy yet another T-shirt, the fashion industry is a significant contributor to carbon emissions, pesticide-heavy cotton crops that pollute water and land, polyester microfibers that are damaging lakes, rivers and oceans and violations of human rights.

The U.S. grows 16% of the world’s cotton, but only one-tenth of one percent is organic, according to Grist.org.

Scientists have found that more than 80% of American water contains polyester microfibers, which will remain in our water supply for decades.

You can buy a “guppy bag” for your washing machine, which filters microfibers, but in France, all new washing machines are built with a microfiber filter. It’s time to hold manufacturers accountable in this country.

We used to pay a lot of money for a few clothes that would last for generations, but now we buy cheaply made clothes — cheaply made in sweatshops that underpay and overwork women and children.

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While “ethical fashion” still encourages buying more clothes, the real solution is one you have heard before: reduce, reuse, recycle.

When you take that as a basis for building your wardrobe, you can get creative.

I will never forget meeting a woman backpacking across Italy with literally two outfits that she mixed and matched in creative ways. Talk about traveling lightly: Her backpack weighed a fraction of mine.

By reducing your clothing purchases, you’re also undertaking truly meaningful individual climate action.

Grist.org put together a guide on “How to Dress for the Planet” to explore these tenets: buy little new, plenty used, wear it a lot and care for it well.

The problem begins with the manufacturing of way too much clothing, which we wear relatively little and then send to a landfill.

In the past 60 years, fiber consumption has leapt from 10 million tons to 82 million tons annually, far outpacing population growth.

Americans throw away 68 pounds of textiles per person per year. We are also dumping huge volumes of clothes on thrift stores and charity shops, which can only sell a small amount of all that clothing, as little as 20%.

I am always amazed by how even folks with little income are drowning in piles of clothing.

My closet has mostly old clothing. I own two pairs of jeans, both from Goodwill. That’s enough.

If seams split, I mend them. If something is too badly stained, I cover it with a scarf or use it for work clothes. More creative people can make fun patches or enjoy ripped jeans as a fashion statement.

One of the secrets to taking good care of clothing is to only wash it when it’s really dirty and to keep it out of the dryer. Whenever the weather allows, I hang my clothes out to dry, but I also put items on hangers indoors.

As your waistline expands or contracts, a seamstress may be able to help you alter clothing.

We need to put an end to our throw-away thinking about everything.

Shannon Brennan can be reached at [email protected]

Americans throw away 68 pounds of textiles per person per year. We are also dumping huge volumes of clothes on thrift stores and charity shops, which can only sell a small amount of all that clothing, as little as 20%.

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