St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, but the idea of ‘greening’ our clothing choices is a good year-round practice. Over the past decade, we have become increasingly aware of the damaging effects mass textile production and apparel manufacturing have on the environment. For example, to produce one kilo of cotton takes 20,000 litres of water –and this is on top of the agrochemicals or pesticides used during crop production. Thankfully, many manufacturers are beginning to introduce and promote more eco-friendly processes; they see the ethical and economic benefits of positioning themselves as greener sources for clothing. Sadly, the majority of producers, both here in North America and around the world, continue to do ongoing damage to the environment during their manufacturing processes.
As consumers, we play an important role in breaking this harmful cycle; both through our purchasing habits and by how our clothing is disposed of once we are finished with it. Some studies indicate that textile waste represents 5% of North American landfills. While that may not seem like a big percentage, the actual numbers are staggering. Each year the average Canadian throws out 37 kilograms of textile products, while across North America 9.5 million tonnes of apparel/textiles are sent to landfill .
A Few Tips
Here are a few tips that can help reduce that mind-numbing number. As with all of Sustainable Orillia TIPS, these are small steps we can all adopt, offered as common sense tactics that collectively will make a difference:
• Research where and how your clothing is made. Make purchasing decisions in favour of materials and manufacturing that follow more environmentally friendly processes.
• Whenever possible invest in better quality and more classic styling. Stay away from high style or trend items that won’t survive more than a couple of seasons.
• Think ‘Vintage’ … buy your clothes with a longer lifespan in mind. Take pride in the fact that a favourite sweater can last ten, fifteen years.
• Take care of, and repair, your clothing. This sounds a bit obvious – but it is suprising how unmotivated we can be to simply sew on a button at times. Just like our cars – when we keep our clothes clean and in good repair; we’ll enjoy them that much more and that much longer. If you don’t have the time or inclination, most dry cleaners can help you find a local tailor or seamstress to do the job for you.
• Follow the care instructions on your clothing to ensure they last longer.
• Where possible, swap with friends and family members. Hand-me-downs are so sensible on many levels, and clothing swaps can be a lot of fun.
• Donate used items in good condition to support the second-hand market.
• Buy locally wherever possible. When you purchase apparel made closer to home, right off the top, you’ve eliminated the additional greenhouse gas emissions it takes to ship products from elsewhere around the world.
• Repurpose used clothing – cut them up for rags or bags. Let’s do our best to keep them out of landfill for as long as we can.
And speaking of ‘rags and bags’, the Sustainable Orillia Youth Council has launched an initiative called ‘Boomerang Bags’, designed to get more people using re-usable bags instead of plastic. Students from our secondary schools here in Orillia have collected and sorted supplies of used clothing, which with some ingenuity and elbow grease they are repurposing as shopping bags. These bags will soon be available for free at stores, but remember they are “Boomerang Bags”—customers will be asked to bring them back on the next visit to the stores.
Kudos to the creative young minds and spirits who have made Boomerang Bags available here in Orillia—an inspirational example of how to keep our dear old clothes out of the landfill a bit longer.