Recycla has reached the point in her life where she knows what she’s looking for in clothes and usually where she can find them. When she does find a style that works for her, she usually buys it in multiples. (Hello perfect chinos, I’m looking at you — in black, navy, khaki, gray, and more.)
Recycla particularly loves cotton t-shirts. They’re comfortable, easy to care for, and usually pretty inexpensive, which means they’re easily replaceable when she stains one so badly it can’t be cleaned. She has a drawer full of t-shirts in a variety of colors, but mostly she prefers basic black or white ones.
Unfortunately, there are environmental and human costs to those cheap shirts and Recycla realizes that she has contributed to the problem and that she needs to fix her actions.
Environmentally speaking, cotton is hard on the planet. Growing the cotton, creating the fabric, transporting the materials, and washing a shirt over and over again takes its toll on Planet Earth. Farmers use pesticides and fertilizers that contaminate the soil and the local waterways. And in terms of water alone, it takes a lot of H20 to create and maintain Recycla’s favorite t-shirts.
Then there’s the human cost: Many clothes are made by underpaid laborers around the world, many of whom work in inhumane conditions reminiscent of a Charles Dickens tale. And, like Dickensian characters, far too many of those laborers are children.
What can Recycla do? What can you do?
First of all, you can buy organic cotton, which uses non-genetically modified seeds and no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Alternately, there are t-shirts made from bamboo and other similar crops. Admittedly, these items are often more expensive than conventionally-grown cotton, so it’s harder on the budget. Luckily, the costs are coming down and it is possible to find more environmentally-friendly clothes in more stores.
Next, you can learn more about who made your clothes. In fact, there’s an app that you can download to your phone to see if that t-shirt that’s been marked down by 50% was made by children.
After that, you could consider shopping at thrift and vintage shops. Buying something used does not put a burden on the environment. Admittedly, where t-shirts are concerned, this is challenging, because Recycla has yet to find decent looking ones at the thrift shops she likes.
And finally, you can think about your purchases, particularly impulse buys. Do you really need eight black t-shirts or will just a few suffice? Will you really wear that neon pink? Just by cutting back, you’re reducing demand for items that put a burden on Planet Earth and create terrible factory conditions for those workers.
These are not perfect solutions, but every little action helps make a difference.
Tell the Eco Women: What suggestions do you have for minimizing your clothing’s impact on the environment?