When you pick out your clothes in the morning, most of the time you’ll think about the colors of the clothes, the style, if it matches your shoes and earrings, and maybe if it’s warm or cool enough for the weather. Most will not think to consider where the material comes from, how it affects workers who make it and the environment it’s grown in! Let’s just take a minute to look at some harm that comes from conventional clothing that you buy from Target or Forever 21:
1. Cotton is the most pesticide-ridden crop in the world. And guess where we put it! On our bodies, all the time. The “fabric of our lives” just got real dangerous! Just watch this video and find out how!
2. Making clothes takes incredible amounts of water. From growing the cotton to shipping the clothes uses a lot of water- it takes almost 400 gallons of water to make 1 t-shirt and 1,800 gallons to make a pair of jeans! Companies like Levi Strauss are developing programs to limit their water usage in their production of jeans.
3. Much of our water pollution is caused by major clothing brands. Clothing manufacturing companies have been found to be dumping hazardous chemicals into our rivers and streams. Investigations found around 14 chemicals that are known hormone disruptors and carcinogens in our waterways posing great threats to our health! Greenpeace is on a mission to detox major clothing brands and has successfully gotten Nike, Adidas, Puma, H&M, and others to commit to detoxing their clothes from these life threatening chemicals! Check out these toxic threads.
Your clothes have more of an impact than you think. It’s hard for us as consumers to wrap our heads around the idea of the production of our clothing and where it goes when we’re done with it! Many also consider the prices so let’s think about it for a second:
Item #1: conventional t-shirt, $9.95 à made with pesticide-ridden cotton putting farmers and our waterways at risk, your skin absorbs those chemicals within 26 seconds of impact, and it might last you a few months before it gets holes or falls apart.
Item #2: organic t-shirt, $34.95 à made with organic cotton, keeping farmers healthier and our waterways cleaner, it’s healthy for you and will last you a few years or so!
So while we’re broke college girls, it’s hard for us to rationalize a super expensive shirt but if you think about the externalities, or the things that aren’t included in the costs of the cheap shirt like health costs, environmental costs, etc., then you might be more inclined to take the more conscious route.
Things you can do:
1. ‘Macklemore, can we go thrift shopping?’ Buying used clothes instead of buying new has a much smaller environmental and social impact (and vintage is in)! Plus it’s super cheap. Giving away your unused clothes to a thrift store also keeps those items out of the landfill! H&M, Eileen Fisher, and North Face actually just recently started programs to take back the clothes that you buy from them for store credit!
2. Seek out eco-friendly alternatives. Doing your research to see where a store or clothing line gets their materials, how they treat their employees, and how much of an impact both have on the environment and your health is worth every dime in the long run. Other conscious materials include hemp, and of course, organic cotton. If you want to get brownie points by keeping it local, check out United By Blue, a Philadelphia-based clothing company that picks up a pound of trash for every article of clothing bought and the shirts are made with organic cotton!
Conscious Collegiette’s favorite places for eco-friendly fashion and news:
Ethical Ocean – Once you make an account, this website literally aggregates all of the environmentally and socially responsible clothing brands so you can shop in one place!
Ecoterre – This is my favorite news source for conscious clothing. It gives you updates about clothing companies like H&M, GAP, etc. to let you know about good (and bad) things they’re doing.
I can’t wait to see all you guys in your new (or used) conscious clothes! What companies do you like that have sustainability or social responsibility intiatives?