I think the contemporary economist Anna Lappé put it best when she said, “Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” That is to say, if the environment is a real concern for you, then you ought to be watching where your money is going. Mostly everyone wears clothes daily and so there is always a market for clothing. Lots of resources are poured into the production of our clothing yearly. Do you know from where or how your clothes are being made?
What Are Your Clothes Made Out Of?
This makes cotton a hot commodity in fashion and retail. The problem is that cotton is one of the thirstiest crops.
That pesticide-infused water then finds its way into our groundwater, so you’re getting more than you bargained for when you buy cotton. Of course, there’s always polyester. While polyester doesn’t contain pesticides or require excessive watering, this synthetic material is derived from plastics, which requires petroleum to manufacture. So, by buying polyester clothing, we’re supporting the market for crude oil.
This isn’t even accounting for the dyes, detergents, and chemicals such as Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) that prevent staining that the vast majority of our clothing gets washed in before finding their way into our stores.
Why We Should Care
Whenever we buy conventionally manufactured clothing, here’s what our proverbial ballot box looks like:
It’s comforting to justify our buying choices by telling ourselves that it’s already on the shelves. The damage was already done before we got there. But the bigger picture is that any time we buy cotton or polyester clothing, the store then goes to order more to replace them, and then someone else wanders in using the same logic as us. It’s a perpetual cycle. One that can be ended by just a few people casting their votes for a more sustainable form of fashion instead.
What is Sustainable Fashion?
There’s a growing trend now to make fashion from more eco-friendly sources, such as organic cotton, hemp, flax fibers, etc., as well as recycled and upcycled fibers. The key is to ensure that sustainable clothes are made as eco-friendly as possible, and as fairly as possible. Many emerging sustainable fashion companies take huge strides in transparency, making their crafting methods and business practices well known.
Obviously we all want to look good in clothes that define our style and culture. But we have to maintain a stylish world, too. We can do this by funding sustainable fashion companies with our shopping choices. We can talk all we want about saving our economy, but the point won’t be made until we’re literally wearing our values with pride!