I’m reading with utter fascination this article, Dress for Excess: The Cost of Our Clothing Addiction. In trying to do our part to lessen the acceleration of climate change, shopping less is definitely a virtue, and may make as big an impact as becoming vegetarian. So voluntary simplicity and opting out of consumer culture less definitely covers unnecessarily buying new threads. Here are some eye-popping figures and pieces of info:
To clear out closet space for the new purchases, the average American discards 68 pounds of clothing and other textiles each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
(To be honest, I wonder if the figure is bigger in some fashion-mad industrialized Asian countries.)
Cotton is grown on less than 2 percent of U.S. farmland but accounts for one of every four pounds of pesticides sprayed. Currently in the global south, estimates suggest that half of total pesticide use is on cotton.
(Alas, this hardly means synthetic materials are preferable, since their manufacture is unsustainable and the products nonbiodegradable.)
Bleaching the cloth for a single shirt generates as much as 15 gallons of polluted wastewater.
Before being shipped off to a big factory or backroom sweatshop, most cotton thread or cloth is dyed. With the world textile industry using 10,000 different dyes and pigments, it’s little wonder that environmental agencies have some difficulty keeping up with dye pollution.
Dyeing does more environmental damage than any other manufacturing step, and it’s hard to hide. Villagers living near dyeing plants in southern India have reported that drinking water flowing from their taps can be red one day, green the next.
Booming demand for brightly colored cotton shirts and dresses has led to increased use of so-called “fiber reactive dyes” that bind to the cotton fiber, keeping it color-fast. Many such reactive dyes are toxic and can pass right through water-treatment facilities untouched.
The health effects suffered by people working with textiles is also alarming, as is the toxic pollution produced by the industry.
The whole article is a must-read.