“As consumers, we have so much power to change the world by just being careful about what we buy”
- Emma Watson
Every day, many of us face this first world problem. Despite having a huge wardrobe; we never have anything to wear. Our usual solution to this classic problem is simple: buy more clothes!
However, what most of us do not know is that the clothing and textile industries are one of the largest polluters in the world. To put things in perspective, for example, it takes 2,700 litres of water to make a single shirt, that’s enough water for one person to drink for 2 1/2 years.
And this is where we are going terribly wrong with fast fashion and over-consumption. To put it simply:
More Shopping -> More Tossing -> More Waste -> More Landfills
According to a CNA report, Singaporeans buy an average of 34 pieces of new clothing every year, and then get rid of around 27 pieces of clothing. When looking at India, we are projected to become the world’s third-largest apparel market by 2030. With that in mind, it’s worrying to know that we tossed 139,800 tonnes of textile and leather waste in 2016, of which only 7% was recycled, according to the National Environment Agency, numbers that will surely rise as our market grows.
And where do the remaining clothes go to die? They are sent off to landfills.
But not all clothes are trashed; a lot of clothes are donated too, especially during the seasons of Christmas and Chinese New Year. Unfortunately, this ‘solution’ for an overflowing wardrobe can be just as damaging. The Salvation Army in Singapore receives about 6 tonnes of donated clothing every day and, due to the overwhelming amount, only 8-10% of them get displayed on shelves. Of the remaining 90% or so, a fraction of it gets exported to countries like Malaysia or Indonesia.
When it comes to manufacturing, the story of fabrics and fashion is only worsening. Most clothes are made from synthetic fibres, which is pretty much plastic that takes forever to biodegrade. Microplastics are small plastic pieces that are less than 5 mm in length and can easily pass through water filtration systems and end up in the ocean posing a potential threat to aquatic life.
With mass-produced clothing getting cheaper and more accessible, consumers become more complacent in making conscious choices when they buy. Additionally, something new and shiny can be more attractive than something pre-owned. It is a practice and way of thinking that has become a daily routine and it can mean our green future where recycling becomes the norm, will stay a far away dream.
Waste Not, Want Not
So how can you help?
Here are some alternative solutions to help declutter your wardrobe:
- Put your needs over your wants - shop for outfits that can be worn more than 5 times at least and invest in quality. Sometimes this can be hard but it is definitely a practice you would want to cultivate.
- Try to reuse your clothes as much as possible, and instead of throwing away unused clothes, give them away to someone who actually needs it or swap them with your friends!
- Choose sustainable fashion for a greener planet. Make a decision to support brands who use ethical and sustainable means of production, those are doing good for our planet and people.
It is essential for us to be mindful of the after-effects of our purchases. When we think of pollution, we envision the common idea of industries that use power plants and create raw sewage but not the manufacturing and lifecycle of the dress we are wearing. The overall impact of the apparel industry is quite grim, and the carbon footprint is tremendous. While cotton, might seem like a smart choice, it can still take more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. The colour used to make your beautiful dress is most likely polluting our waters while being harmful to your skin. These are just a few of the harmful facts, impacting the industry today. The design and source of clothing are as important as the ethos behind it.
In our own way at Sui, we are committed to doing our best by the environment in our own production and process. We craft all garments with environmentally friendly fabrics like organic cotton, hemp and khadi, and we also use natural dyes. We put thought into creating a solution to our waste and have successfully been upcycle our fabric scraps into accessories. We are always looking for the more conscious path and, at each step of our process and design, strive to help nature flourish without compromising on designs.
We can all take these green steps and be the ones to take action and make a change. And, as a consumer, you can take those steps and help by changing where you shop and what you buy. There is a thread of hope to make our planet a better place for living.