We exist in what many call a throwaway culture. When it comes to clothes, we like to buy without much thinking. It makes sense – fashionable clothes are available at many outlets for low prices, so the “buy first, ask questions later” mentality prevails.
It’s painfully obvious that we can’t go on buying clothes this way. The average American throws away 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per year, which adds up to 11.1 million tons for the country as a whole.
The key to preventing climate change is decarbonizing. Needlessly throwing away recyclable and reusable textiles is part of the problem, and rethinking throwaway clothing culture is necessary.
Change is needed on two fronts. One, we need to stop throwing away clothing and textiles when we no longer want them. Old clothing and textiles are 100 percent recyclable, so there’s really no excuse for tossing an old T-shirt or pillowcase in the garbage.
Second, we need to start looking at where our clothing comes from and how we’ll use it. Every pair of jeans is not created equally – some are manufactured with environmentally sustainable business practices while others have little regard for Earth’s well-being.
This post will focus on the latter, as we’ll explore four clothing companies that don’t lower environmental standards when manufacturing fashionable threads.
Fashion outlet H&M is doing quite a bit to reduce its environmental impact. H&M participates in the Better Cotton Initiative, a long-term initiative aimed toward promoting sustainable farming practices and reducing chemical use for cotton growth. The retailer is the world’s #1 user of organic cotton and promotes clothing recycling by paying customers for recycling clothes via in-store bins at its European locations.
American Apparel’s Organic Collection follows eco-friendly principles similar to H&M’s. The Collection’s garments are made from 100 percent USDA Certified Organic and pesticide-free cotton and are dyed in a low-impact process which eliminates chemical waste. American Apparel also contributes to the Sustainable Cotton Project, and internationally recognized program working toward “lessening the toll that the soil-to-shirt cotton production process takes on the earth’s air, water and soil, and the health of people in cotton growing areas.”
Levi’s launched their Water<Less jeans in 2010 with one key objective: to drastically reduce the amount of water required to manufacture clothing. The collection’s garments require anywhere from 28 to 96 percent less water to manufacture than traditional items, which adds to a total of 172 million liters of water saved since 2010. Levi’s is also urging customers to wash jeans less frequently and only do so with cold water.
PUMA’s line of recyclable and/or biodegradable shoes, apparel and accessories is scheduled to hit stores in spring/summer 2013. InCycle’s biodegradable products are made entirely from organic fibers and contain zero toxic chemicals. The InCycle line also features a track jacket made from 98 percent recycled polyester. The recycled polyester blend comes from recycled PET bottles.
According to the EPA, textiles account for about 5 percent of all landfill waste, which is way too much – all of these landfilled textiles can be recycled or reused in some way. When buying a new pair of jeans or winter coat, consider what you’ll do with it when you no longer want it – and the environmental impact its manufacturing process has already had.