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Here is where I share my thoughts, ideas and opinions about the world of nutrition, food and health. I hope you find good sense, helpful guidance and inspiration to eat great healthy food that makes you feel good.

I write regularly for GI News, an online newsletter for 60,000+ Australasian and International subscribers interested in the glycemic index (GI) and associated health topics such as diabetes, weight loss and a healthy heart. It’s a great read. http://www.gisymbol.com/category/gi-news/

 

02 Apr 2019

Our clothing conundrum

Posted by Nicole Senior on Tuesday, April 02, 2019

OK so clothing isn’t really about eating, but it’s a household issue so its worth talking about. Clothing is so cheap these days; many of us purge almost brand new garments from our wardrobes without a second thought. This is unsustainable and unethical.

Environmental Issues

According to ABC’s program War on Waste, Australians throw a massive 6000kg of clothing into landfill every 10 minutes. For those of you thinking you are in the clear because you donate old clothes to charity, sorry to burst your bubble but 85% of donated clothing ends up in landfill. Even charities are groaning under the weight of donations.

Producing a single item of clothing uses a massive amount of resources. According to Fashion Revolution, 2,720 litres of water is used to make just one t-shirt. That’s how much water we normally drink in around 3 years! Not to mention the greenhouse gases released into the air along with the fertilisers, pesticides and toxic dyes that are contaminating waterways. The True Cost movie uncovers the devastating impact that chemicals from textile production have on the health of local communities. Communities located in cotton producing areas are exposed to pesticides and some leather tanneries contaminate drinking water. Sadly these communities experience high levels of particular diseases like cancer and early death.

Ethical Issues

Buying a cheap $5 t-shirt supports the fast fashion industry and perpetuates the cycle of poverty and poor health for garment workers in developing countries like Bangladesh.

The collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh killed more than 1000 people because profits were put above employee safety. This is one of many similar tragedies in the fast fashion industry. In many countries like Bangladesh, garment workers are paid a minimal wage that covers only 60% of the cost of living in a slum. As fast fashion brands generally don’t own garment factories they often wash their hands of these responsibilities. Most of the money that you pay goes into the pocket of the brand and retailer.  If we were to pay garment workers a fair wage so they could access housing, healthcare, education, food and clothing, this would only have a minimal impact on the retail price. According to Fashion Revolution a $46 AUD (26 Euro, $33 USD) t-shirt would only increase in retail price by about $2.50 AUD (1.57 Euro, $1.77 USD).

What Can You Do to Help?

  • Buy only what you need: Choose versatile pieces that you love and will wear over and over again. For special occasions consider renting or borrowing an outfit.
  • Buy second-hand: Buy pre-loved vintage items from a charity store to rescue an item from landfill and buy quality items at a bargain price.
  • Support ethical brands: Support sustainable companies like those using organic cotton, recycled materials and those avoiding toxic dyes. Check out Greenpeace’s list of brands that are working to eliminate hazardous chemicals.
  • Choose quality items: Spend a little more on well-made timeless items. Look for heavier fabrics as well as strong and tidy stitching so they last longer.
  • Choose natural fabrics: Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon and acrylic are types of plastic so when they are washed, tiny plastic particles enter our waterways. Instead choose natural fabrics like cotton (e.g. denim), linen, silk or wool that don’t release micro-plastics and decompose faster in landfill. A linen sleeveless top can decompose in as little as 2 weeks compared to a polyester dress that may remain in landfill for over 200 years.
  • Launder clothes less often: Try and wear clothes at least 3 times before you wash them. If they’re not dirty, just hang your clothes in the air to dry out and freshen up – as the saying goes, sunshine is a great disinfectant. If you get a stain on your freshly laundered shirt, spot cleaning will suffice. Reduce wear and tear on clothes by hanging them to dry so creases drop out instead of ironing them.

Stinky kitchen sponges, dish cloths and tea towels are gross but can be kept fresh and odour-free by ensuring they dry out completely between uses rather than constantly laundering them. Bacteria need moisture to grow. Keep them dry by hanging out in the sun or in dry air and have a couple in use at once and alternate between them so you always have a dry one ready to go. You can also sterilise clean, wet dish cloths in the microwave to kill germs and then dry them out.

  • Protect your clothing: Use aprons when cooking to protect clothes from hot oil and food stains. Launder dark items inside out to preserve their colour as they may fade in the wash when rubbing against other garments. Do up zips or hooks and turn garments inside out so fabric doesn’t snag.
  • Repair your clothing: Learn how to sew on a button or re-dye your favourite black jeans that have faded over time.
  • Upcycle worn out items: When items are beyond repair, give them a second life. Turn old worn out clothing, tea towels and tablecloths into shopping bags, aprons, cleaning rags and much more!

Ethical Clothing in a Nut Shell

  • Be mindful of the human and environmental costs of fast fashion.
  • Buy only what you need.
  • Choose good quality products made from natural fabrics that will last longer.
  • Only launder garments when they are dirty.
  • Repair worn textiles or get creative and turn them into new useful items.

Further reading

  • https://iview.abc.net.au/show/war-on-waste/series/1/video/DC1624H013S00#playing
  • http://www.abc.net.au/btn/classroom/fashion-waste/10523106
  • https://www.fashionrevolution.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Website_HTBAFR_Booklet_BCxFR_Print.pdf
  • https://www.wwf.ch/sites/default/files/doc-2017-09/2017-09-WWF-Report-Changing_fashion_2017_EN.pdf
  • https://truecostmovie.com/about/

80% of donated clothing ends up in landfill. The solution is to buy less clothing and then dispose of it responsibly.

Thanks to Rachel @theseasonaldietitian for co-writing this article.