What you didn’t know:
Of all the pesticides used in the US, 25% of them are applied to cotton. Some of these chemicals can harm you [are the clothes you wear harming you?] A lot of synthetic material available on the market, like polyester, is petroleum based and it takes almost a third of a pound of fertilisers and pesticides to grow enough cotton for one t-shirt! [carewhatyouwear]
Aside from the obvious side-effects of the use of chemicals in the clothing industry, there’s also the ethical aspect to fashion. Most fashion statements are transient – they’re fleeting follies that come and go, leaving a litany of ‘can’t wears’ in the average wardrobe. Suddenly the standard advice to ‘buy classic’ makes a lot of sense – if you’re buying clothes that will last and won’t go out of fashion then you’ve got what today is called ‘eco-savvy’.
Buying clothing as a conscious consumer is not just about the type of material used in the production. It’s about how the crops used to make the clothing were grown and whether the production was ethical or fair trade. It’s about shopping smart and asking questions to reduce the load going into landfill and the waste generated in the production of clothing.
What you can do:
Some would call this being discerning. Buy something only if you absolutely LOVE it. In this way, you cut down on spontaneous shopping and shopping for the sake of it. Finally, ask yourself whether or not you REALLY need to buy the garment that you’ve spontaneously plucked off the rack on your way to the food section? Are you buying because you can, or because you really need another t-shirt?
Buy organic and hemp
Cotton, despite the years of marketing as a clean and natural fabric, uses no less than a third of a pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the production of one t-shirt. [are the clothes you wear harming you?] Organic cotton and other fashion alternatives are making an appearance on the South African market. Woolies is the obvious place to start – they’ve introduced a green range, some of which is 5% organic, but others are 100%. Then local designers such as fundudzi, lunar and eco trend collection all offer organic alternatives. The hemporium and house of hemp are heavily behind the promotion of hemp as an alternative green fibre for clothing and both offer some wonderful hemp fashion options.
The new term for used clothing is pretty trendy right now, particularly in places like the UK where charity shops are a wonderful source of cheap recycled clothing. Whilst they’re not big in South Africa, there is the odd charity shop worth a visit or get together with a group of friends and each bring 5 garments for a big ‘swop’ session.
Instead of throwing away, recycle your old clothes. Some recycling organisations have a section for old clothes, and if they don’t then get your clothes back into circulation by donating them to a community, or resell them from your garage, sell them on the community exchange system or freecycle them.
Is there anything in your wardrobe worth salvaging? Get creative, transform old clothes and find new life for them. Now called ‘a re-purposed garment’ the trend to convert old clothing into new is fast replacing the need to buy new every season.
Look after it
Once you’ve bought a quality organic item, look after it – wash it carefully – turn it inside out when it’s drying in the hot sun, use the lowest temperature when washing and use biodegradable detergents - sun-dry it and try not to dry-clean, as it’s so environmentally unfriendly!
A bit of fun: if you’re really concerned about going green and want to go the extra mile, wash your clothes in this pedal powered washing spin dryer machine
Any clothing that bears the label ‘fair trade’ is produced ethically, using ecologically sound and sustainable practices. And everyone involved gets a fair wage. Fair trade doesn’t just apply to bananas and coffee, it plays a very important part in the clothing and textile industry. [more on fair trade in the clothing industry] Although there isn’t much (if any) available yet in South Africa, there is jewellery and locally produced accessories made by local communities that is worth investing your money in, so look out for these.
By supporting locally made clothing there is a lot less chance that your item entailed child labour or unethical labour practices, and it supports a vulnerable industry in South Africa.
If you enjoyed reading this green guide, then you’ll also enjoy:
green your water
green your heating & cooling
green your lighting
green your cleaning
green your personal care
green your baby
eating & shopping organic in Jo’burg
eating & shopping organic in Cape Town