The life cycle of clothes involves many steps, resources and a lot of transportation. Clothes can begin as cotton crops on a field or as plastic materials in a factory. These resources take large amounts of land, energy, chemicals, and water to produce. Materials are then shipped to another country to create thread. Textile workers sew the fabric into clothing. They often work in unsafe conditions with little pay. The finished clothes are then shipped around the world to stores. This results in large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.
Fast fashion is an unsustainable business model. It creates “trendy” clothing made to be tossed out at a quick rate. This happens at the expense of textile workers' health and safety and the environment. The Love Your Stuff campaign aims to:
- Provide necessary information to understand the issues.
- Encourage your action to change the textile industry for the better.
Read below to learn more.
Textile making (Manufacturing)
Shops and online stores boast an endless supply of new, trendy clothes. It can be difficult to consider the inputs and processes that go into making the clothes. Fashion companies have increased production. Before the 1990s they used to create 2 collections per year. Now some offer between 12 to 24 distinct collections (Source: Business Insider). This overproduction of clothing goes hand-in-hand with consumer purchasing spikes. It has been found that people bought 60% more garments in 2000 than 2014. People kept those items for only half as long (Source: Business Insider).
- It takes a lot of water to make clothes. To produce one cotton t-shirt almost 700 gallons of water is needed. Two thousand gallons of water is needed to produce a pair of jeans (Source: TED-ed; Business Insider). That’s enough water for 1 person to drink at least the recommended 8 cups per day for 3 and a half years.
- Cotton is a water intensive crop to grow. The recent increase in demand for clothing has already threatened our water supply. In 50 years, the Aral Sea in Asia (what used to be world's fourth largest lake) has dried up. It is almost entirely due to nearby cotton farming. (Source: Columbia University; NASA)
- In Texas alone, cotton accounts for 3.68 million acres of land (Source: True Cost). Cotton also requires the most pesticide use than any other crop. Pesticides are toxic and threaten the health of farmworkers and local ecosystems (Source: The New York Times). Organic cotton does not use pesticides but is not popular. It currently makes up less than 1% of the cotton produced worldwide (Source: TED-ed).
- The fashion industry has a large carbon footprint. It releases almost 1.2 billion tons of carbon each year. This is 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions (Source: Business Insider).
- To make clothing with cheap price tags major fashion brands cut corners.
- Companies contract factories who pay workers low wages and may not upkeep factories. This can be dangerous for their employees' health and safety.
- In 2013, the Rana Plaza textile factory did not follow building evacuation orders. When the building collapsed, more than 1,100 people died and another 2,500 were hurt in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
- Fashion brands are often not responsible for poor working conditions or treatment of employees. Textile factory workers, have a daily wage of less than $3 per day despite working long hours. Eighty five percent of workers are women and face physically abusive environments. This is especially true if they speak out about health and safety concerns in their work place. (Source: International Labour Organization; True Cost).
- Textiles create a lot of water pollution.
- Cloth dyeing is the world’s largest water polluter. It accounts for 20% of all industrial water pollution worldwide (Source: Business Insider).
- Contaminated water threatens ecosystems and wildlife. It can also harm drinking water sources for local communities (Natural Science).
- A lot of clothing is made of synthetic textile materials like polyester. The washing of these materials can be harmful. It can release 500,000 tons of microfibers into our oceans every year. About 35% of all ocean microplastics come from the laundering of synthetic clothing. (Source: Business Insider).