Thank you for all your comments on my last post on “Promoting Better Products or Just Promoting Consumption?” ! It was great to hear your thoughts on such a multi-faceted issue.
I’m doing some reading and some thinking and some excessive coffee drinking (An accurate summary of my life, actually. Wouldn’t change it for a thing) and I will be back with a more in-depth answer to what I’ve learned from your comments, and how I see that playing out on This Kind Choice from now on.
In the meantime, let’s look at a super simple way of reducing the effect our clothing has on the environment that everyone can do. Even if you shop at Primark. Yes, really.
Often the focus in seems to be squarely on the before part of our clothings story (Where was it made? What is it made of?) or the after part (What happens to the piece of clothing once we’re through with it?).
These are crucial things to look at, but the during phase is just as important. Why?
It can use the most energy.
Cleaning and drying a piece of clothing made of polyester uses four times as much energy than making that piece of clothing does.
60% of the total carbon dioxide emissions of a pair of jeans happens in the time they are being used.
These are hardly insignificant numbers. (Both stats are from Fashion & Sustainability: Design For Change, which I am devouring at the moment and would highly recommend, especially if you are interested in the fashion industry as a whole).
It’s easy to change. And we are all empowered to do so.
The before or after phases I talked about above are often the first things people try to work on. And that’s great! High fives all round! But they can be hard to change – they can take extra knowledge, money or time, and that can be off-putting or downright limiting.
Why not start in the easiest, cheapest and most immediate way possible? Why not start looking at how you treat your clothing? Even if you’re not able to buy from environmentally friendly or ethical clothing brands, or even if you’re still working on buying less, this is a part of the puzzle that is within everyone’s reach.
Care labels in garments tell you the maximum temperature you can wash that piece of clothing at before it gets damaged. They’re saying, “If you wash this t-shirt at a higher temperature than this, we’re not liable if it falls apart”, not “You must wash it at this temperature otherwise it will implode”
This campaign against speeding sums it up nicely. The New Zealand police says drive to the conditions – I say wash to the conditions. Is your t-shirt what would politely be called “heavily soiled”? If you answered yes, hit that 90 degree button and wash away. If not, wash cold.
No, I’m not trying to make you into a dirty hippy. But how often do we wash something out of reflex (or possibly because we don’t want to fold it up)? Take it off and chuck it into the washing basket without asking ourselves if it really needs to be there.
Tricia from Little Eco Footprints has written about her experiments with washing less, and this study looks at whether washing your clothes less makes you “socially challenged” (I think that’s a official way of saying you have no friends). The answer? It doesn’t.
If it’s possible, spot-clean it. If it’s dirty, wash it. If it’s not, don’t. It’s that simple.
Like I mentioned above, 60% of the CO2 emissions of a pair of jeans happens in their use phase. 80% of that comes from using an energy-intensive way of drying, a.k.a chucking your jeans in the dryer. If my maths isn’t completely off, that means 48% of your jeans total CO2 emissions come from using a dryer. And that, my friends, is a lot.
Line drying your clothes whenever possible (with a weather forecast like this, I know there are times when it just isn’t going to happen), means less emissions, longer clothing lifespans and lower power bills. All things I could see myself signing up for.
Choose a better washing powder.
Avoid putting harmful chemicals on your skin and into the environment by choosing a better washing powder. This is something I’m still reading up on and learning about myself, but according to this report, phosphates, phosphonates and petrochemical-based surfactants such as LAS are all things to avoid.
If you know more about this, please share in the comments!
Switch to a green drycleaner.
Conventional drycleaning uses toxic chemicals that can cause fertility problems for the workers exposed to them and have been highlighted at possible carcinogens. Less harmful alternatives are becoming more and more available, though.
Green Earth Cleaning has locations around the world (but not in New Zealand, surprise surprise) so check them out or see if there’s an equivalent in the place you live.If you enjoyed this post, stay in touch! Follow @ThisKindChoice