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by Paula Jones
Do you have too many clothes … but nothing to wear? Do you find clothes you forgot you have? Are you plagued with not enough hangers for all your stuff? Are you clicking on emails from clothes retailers who send mail every day?
It’s easy to over-consume, add to your wardrobe, and become addicted to buying clothes.
But do you know how detrimental the growing amount of fast fashion and clothes production is?
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“Fast fashion” is the business model that most retail stores have started to follow. It emphasizes new styles with low costs introduced continuously to consumers.
A decade ago, there may have been four seasons in a year. Now there are upwards of 10. In all stages of production, sales, use, and disposal, fast fashion is detrimental to our world.
Environmentally, fashion — and especially fast fashion — comprises 10 percent of total global carbon emissions. It is the second-largest polluter after the oil industry.
Clothes production dries up water sources and pollutes rivers and streams, while 85% of all textiles go to dumps and landfills each year.
The production of synthetic fibers relies on the extraction of fossil fuels such as crude oil and gas. Around 8,000 different synthetic chemicals are used to dye, bleach, process, and make no-iron garments.
Not only do these chemicals pose health hazards to the people who work with them, but many of the chemicals also end up in freshwater systems.
Washing many kinds of synthetic clothes releases hundreds of thousands of tons of microfibers into the ocean each year, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.
Every year, thousands of acres of endangered forests are cut down and replaced by plantations of trees used to make wood-based fabrics such as rayon, viscose, and modal.
Fast fashion abuses its workers. Low wages, long working hours, child labor, unacceptable health and safety conditions, and the forbidding of worker unions is what reality is for most garment workers in the fast fashion industry.
Clothing has clearly become disposable. As a result, we generate more and more textile waste. Huge amounts of clothes are produced but never worn.
Despite the high level of resources that goes into making garments, up to 40% of all textile materials produced for garments never reach the end consumer and are typically either burned or end up in landfills.
According to Massachusetts Department of Energy, Bay Staters throw away each year “nearly a quarter-million tons of clothing, shoes, and other textiles.
Massachusetts residents and businesses dispose of approximately 230,000 tons of textiles annually. About 95% of this material could be reused or recycled instead of thrown away.”
Buy fewer clothes. Invest in classic core wardrobe pieces that you can build around, not faddish clothes. There are lots of sustainable retailers out there.
Choose Lyocell/Tencel® instead of rayon, modal, or viscose. Wash your garments less frequently and air-dry them.
Consider repairing clothes yourself or send them to a tailor instead of throwing them out. Stencil or stamp slogans on old tee shirts instead of buying new ones for clubs and events.
Swap clothing, especially children’s outfits. Shop in consignment stores. Buying pre-owned clothing online (“thrifting”) is a trend that is exploding, and it is very popular with young people through social media.
Analysts predict that the total secondhand market will double to $80 billion by 2029. “Thrifting” is fun, but buying less is still important.
Recycling doesn’t solve the problem of the glut of clothes and fashion, but it is better than putting it in the trash.
Many articles of clothing are sent to developing countries that are overloaded with the glut of used clothes coming from the United States.
Textile collection bins have been placed at all Ipswich school parking lots. Materials collected from these bins will be reused, recycled, and/or repurposed.
A portion of the proceeds from them benefits Ipswich Schools’ Environmental Club and Green Teams.
The town of Ipswich is partnering with HELPSY to offer residents free home pickup of clothing and household textiles.
Pickups can be scheduled online at www.helpsy.co/ipswichma, and weekly pickups will begin this week on Friday, Feb. 11.
Kudos to Ipswich students in the Environmental Club who are studying the effects of fast fashion and holding programs like this past week’s Climate Cafe to educate others about the waste problems cheap clothes are causing.
Send questions you have to email@example.com or visit Facebook at Ipswich Recycles and Composts.