Wonder why you can buy a shirt for $5? Part 2

Part 2 - Disposable Couture, Environmental and Occupational Hazards

Demand for synthetic man-made fibers has been on a rise for the past 15 years. Out of all man-made fibers, polyester is the most manufactured and used. Made from petroleum – it is an energy-intensive commodity with many downfalls during and post-production.

During the manufacturing process, the byproducts from the garment factories are dumped directly into the waterways. The apparel industry is one of the largest polluters. Globally,  they’re responsible for 20% of freshwater pollution.

Photo: apparelresources.com

According to the EPA Office of Solid Waste, Americans throw more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year. That is approximately, 20 pieces of clothing.

1/5 of clothing that goes to charity goes to thrift (donations for second-hand clothing). Unfortunately, 80% of the donations end up in landfills or incinerators.

Landfills are bursting from clothes made from fast-fashion houses. These clothes are made to last only a few seasons to encourage more consumerism. Many of the clothes are made from mixed materials (polyester and other fibers weaved together) to reduce costs.

Once these clothes end up in the landfills, polyester takes 200 years to break down. These clothes will rot there, living there even beyond our children’s lifetime.

Production of Fast Fashion

During the growing process, cotton is farmed with insecticides and pesticides. Globally, the cotton industry uses 22.5% of all insecticides and 10% of all pesticides. For every pound of clothing produced, 0.02 pounds of pesticides are used.

The Environmental Protection Agency has classified these as some of the most toxic chemicals and they’ve been linked to brain, fetal damage, and sterility in humans.

150 billion+ pieces of clothing are produced annually in factories that still use coal power energy.

Photo: Union of Concerned Scientists

The clothing industry releases 2.1 million tons of carbon dioxide every year which amounts to 10% of all carbon pollution.

In the factories, garment workers are exposed to harmful chemicals that include toxic phthalates and amines used in some dyes. These chemicals are known to be hormone disrupting and they’ve been linked to miscarriages, birth defects, and cancer.

Downstream, the aquatic life is also affected. Greenpeace tested the discharge from one of these textile plants along the Citarum River in Indonesia and found disturbing amounts of nonylphenol – an endocrine disruptor, which can be deadly to aquatic life.

Why Choose Organic Cotton? Organic cotton minimizes the health risks for farmers and garment factory workers. According to the World Health Organization, pesticide poisoning causes 200,000 deaths each year in developing countries.

Photo: Agro News Nigeria

When it comes to organic cotton, fair trade working conditions are also employed – conditions providing equitable wages to the people involved with the production, milling, dyeing, manufacturing and sewing process.

No change is too small! By supporting organic clothing manufacturers you’re part of a quiet movement that fosters environmental stewardship and equality.

Be part of the change and support ethical fashion! Know that what you’re supporting helps everyone involved, from the designers, to the farmers, the people sewing the clothes and our planet.  

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