Why Fashion Shouldn’t Cost The Earth

2879833609_c058e8495d_z

Image via Flickr creative commons from rubinowicz

The impact a business as huge as fashion can have on the planet and its people is well documented – both anecdotally and in the news. Sweatshop scandals of the 1990s have lest a strong impression. When you buy a new dress, chances are you don’t think twice about where it came from, who made it and what it’s made from.

Earlier this decade, figures from Verdict Research showed that £1 in every £5 spent on fashion in the UK was going to low cost shops. More recently, some of the biggest high street brands have become embroiled in ethical trading scandals.

But the past decade has seen an increase in the globally-conscious shopper – especially in the UK. A chocolate bar, for example, may cost a little bit more when it’s fair trade, yet many will happily pay extra in the knowledge cocoa farmers in the developing world are not being exploited for a desk worker’s sugar fix.

That eco-friendliness also extends into organic fashion. The developed world may not mind suffering for fashion once in a while, but there’s no reason the entire planet should. Organic cotton, for example, should be grown from non-genetically engineered seed and developed without the use of synthetic fertilizers or toxic herbicides and pesticides. It experienced a sales growth of 35 per cent between 2008 and 2009.

The people who make our clothes often work in terrible conditions. Many garments purchased in the ‘Western World’ are imported cheaply from the South, where they are made by sweat shop workers (often children) who work long and hard for very little money.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) was developed with the aim of defining world-wide requirements that ensure the organic status of textiles. It covers everything from harvesting of the raw materials through to environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing. All clothing covered by this must also be labelled in order to provide credible assurance to the consumer.

GOTS requires safe, humane working conditions (including regular employment, fair wages and working hours) and specifies that employees cannot be underage or forced labour.

Eco-fashion clothes are made using organic materials – such as cotton grown without pesticides and silk made by worms fed on organic trees. It can also include recycled and improved second hand clothes. Clothes can even be made from plastic bottles. Post-consumer resin (PCR) can be spun into thin fibres that are then used to make a form of polyester. This becomes the fabric to create any type of clothing including exercise outfits, casual shirts and jackets.

It may not seem obvious when you see a bargain sweater or maxi dress, but the products used to make clothing can cause a great deal of damage to the environment. Pesticides used by farmers can harm wildlife, contaminate other products and even get into the food we eat. This is especially true with the chemicals used to bleach and colour.

Thinking about the environment even extends to the clothes we throw as away – which can take up valuable space in landfill sites.

5 Eco-Friendly Ways To Recycle Old Clothes

3707200396_36d147c0ef_z

Image via Flickr creative commons from net_efekt

There comes a time in every person’s life when they are just fed up of wearing the same old clothes and desperately wish for new ones. However, in order to make room in your wardrobe for all of your brand new threads, you’ll need to get rid of the old ones first. No doubt you’ve heard of the saying, out with the old and in with the new? Well I am going to show you just how you can do that and help the environment with five eco-friendly ways to recycle your old clothes.

1.      Donate to charity

It may sound obvious but one way you could put your old and unwanted clothes to good use is to donate them to a charity shop. By doing so, somebody else will be able to make good use out of your old clothes and you will create sufficient space in your wardrobe and drawers to put your new purchases. The great thing about donating to charity is that you will be helping a good cause and someone else will be able to get their hands on top quality clothing for a fraction of the usual cost. Just make sure your clothes are still in tip-top condition before you bag them up and take them down to the store. Nobody will feel inclined to buy dishevelled clothing that is ripped or stained.

2.      Clothes-swap

Your clothes don’t have to be damaged or necessarily old and worn for you to want new ones. Sometimes you may have been given clothing as a gift and you find that you don’t like it or that it doesn’t fit you. Rather than seem ungrateful, graciously accept the gift in the knowledge that it will come in handy for your next clothes-swapping party. Invite all of your friends round to your house and tell everyone to bring an item of clothing or some accessories that are unwanted but still in great condition. Then take it in turns to pick out an item from the pile. You may find that your best friend has a gorgeous green dress that suits you while she may covet those red beads that you no longer wear.

3.      Fashion your clothes into new pieces

Perhaps your old M&Co blouses have seen better days but you just can’t bring yourself to throw them away? In that case, you will be pleased to know that you can take cuttings from your old clothes and fashion them into fantastic new pieces. That sheer blouse that you love the colour of can be used to make a sheer denim button up tank top. Simply chop the sleeves off your old, non-fitting denim jacket. Next chop your jacket up just below the front jacket pocket flaps and retain the button section but discard the rest of the jacket. Chop off the top section of your sheer blouse from underneath the arm upwards and se to the top of the denim jacket. Finally sew on the button section to complete the top.

4.      Sell your old clothes

Another ingenious way to pass on your clothes, i.e. recycle old clothes, which will make you a bit of money at the same time, is to sell them via an online marketplace. You may not fetch an awful lot of money for your old and unwanted clothes, but you will be doing your bit for the environment and at least someone else will have the opportunity to wear them, rather than having old clothes cluttering up your drawers at home.

5.      Use old clothes for cleaning cloths

On occasion you will have a collection of old clothes that are so worn and tired that they are unsuitable to be sold on or given away to charity. In such circumstances, you can still re-use your old tops as cleaning rags. Simply cut them up into medium sized pieces and you will save money on having to buy expensive and overpriced cleaning cloths.