Maybe its just my perception, but recently there seems to have been a lot reported in the news in regards to how our spending habits are negatively impacting our planet.
Fast fashion – ‘fast’ because it speeds up the lag between cat walk and consumer, by manufacturing and selling clothes cheaply – is promoting an over-consumption of clothes. The low cost of garments on the high street is leading to a trend that is seeing people beginning to treat clothing as single-use items, and thus easily disposable.
Furthermore, the clothing industry is said to be the second largest polluter on the planet (1M♀, 2017), since it contributes to the over-use of water, greenhouse gases and air and water pollution, with toxic chemicals being used to create some of the fabrics we choose.
At the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 1, we read the story of creation. In verse 26 of chapter 1 it explains how humans, created in God’s image, have been given ‘dominion over’ the fish, birds, animals, etc. With this authority comes responsibility to rule well, to be good stewards and caretakers of our planet. Seven times within Genesis 1, God reflects and expresses how, ‘it was good’. I wonder what word/s God would use to describe our planet today? What is He saying to us, over and over again, about how He sees the world? I believe we need to be asking questions, reflecting on how God would act, and take responsibility.
We are encouraged to donate our clothes to charity shops – there is no shortage of them on the high street – but did you know that as many as 75% of people in the UK throw away unwanted clothing, rather than donate it to charity or recycle it (Perry, 2018), and from those donations,
‘…only 15% of unwanted clothes that are given to second hand charity shops meet the demands and quality standards to be resold locally. The remainders either get shipped overseas, turned into rags, or sent to landfill’1M♀, 2017
Personally, I’ve felt challenged on how I can reduce my carbon footprint, so I decided to start with a bit of upcycling. Over the last year or so, Philip and I have lost quite a lot of weight, as we have tried to eat more healthily and exercise. Whilst I’ve given some of the clothes that no longer fit away to friends, I’ve kept a few that I really didn’t want to part with.
One of the items I kept was a skirt made from shwe shwe – a traditional South African fabric printed with geometric shapes that I purchased from the local market a few years ago – which I decided to transform into a dress. Whilst I experienced one or two frustrations in interpreting the pattern – which Philip and I eventually overcame – I have loved repurposing and making something new. I now have a beautiful dress that is ideal for the Summer. So what choices do we have to put an end to the over-consumption of clothing?
- Reduce the number of clothes we buy – think quality rather than quantity
- Invest in ethical clothing – consider whether the item is made from sustainable material, where it has been made, how far it has travelled
- Keep the clothing we do buy for longer
- Learn to sew and repair clothing. Creagh (2019) recommends that children are taught how to make and mend clothes – something we need to consider as we establish a school
- Upcycle – give pre-used garments extra value
- Share clothes
- Buy second-hand
- Build a capsule wardrobe (30 quality loved items)
- Wash less and hang dry
Which of the above do you feel ready to action first?
What change/s can you make to reduce your carbon footprint?
1M♀ 1millionwomen: fighting climate change through our everyday lives (2017) Fast Fashion: 6 Ways To Make Your Wardrobe More Sustainable [online], Available from https://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/ending-fast-fashion-6-ways-make-your-wardrobe-more-sustainable/?fbclid=IwAR2UA6xYr8smTjCjxDWaoStKoSKw8AE8SLYo1cd6xnVgLd3NGEeV1ayuD50 [Accessed 26 February 2019]
Harrabin, R. (2019) Fast fashion: ‘Penny on a garment’ to drive clothes recycling [online], Available from https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-47282136 [Accessed 20 February 2019]Holy Bible (2008) New Revised Standard Version, Great Britain: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
Perry, P. (2018) The environmental costs of fast fashion [online], Available from https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/environment-costs-fast-fashion-pollution-waste-sustainability-a8139386.html [Accessed 26 February 2019]
*In addition to the environment consequences of ‘fast fashion’, there are also concerns that the manufacture of clothing is linked to child labour, forced labour and bonded labour.