Cheap clothes are everywhere. From discount retailers to department stores, fast, affordable fashion seems to dominate the wardrobes of many Americans. Often citing their inexpensive price tags and easy care instructions as the reason for purchase, most people don’t consider the long-term environmental impact fast fashion trends.
Trends Pass, Clothes Don’t
New fashion looks sold by many bargain retailers are produced roughly 13 times a year. This means retailers are looking for inexpensive ways to manufacture clothing that can be sold and discarded when the trend passes. What many people don’t consider is what happens to that clothing after it leaves the confines of your closet. While many people opt to donate their clothes to second-hand and thrift shops, 12.8 million tons of textiles end up in landfills on an annual basis.
Clothing Production & Pollution
The environmental impact of what we wear doesn’t just extend to clothing in landfills. It takes roughly 200 tons of water to produce one ton of fabric. While many industries are guilty of using large amounts of water to produce their goods, it’s what happens after the fabric is produced that is particularly worrisome. After scouring dyeing and rinsing fabric, the water is loaded with chemicals and dyes. Finishing chemicals are then applied to make clothing soft, stain resistant or wrinkle-free. In countries without strict controls on what happens to this water, it is dumped into waterways without prior treatment. As a result, local farmers and residents live with a contaminated water supply. Unfortunately, most cheap clothes manufactures rely on fabric made in these locations.
More Dry Clean Only, Less Disposable Clothing
There is a simple solution to the pollution problem clothing in landfills and fabric production create. Buy more high-quality clothing and have them dry cleaned regularly.
But what about the environmental impact of dry cleaning?
In recent years, the solvents traditionally used in dry cleaning have received a lot of attention for their impact on the environment around them. The truth is, most dry cleaners are switching to greener options that are just as effective as traditional solvents. Additionally, when you consider the environmental impact of clothing in landfills, the water savings of purchasing quality clothing from reputable manufacturers and the water savings from not having to launder the clothing yourself, the environmental impact of dry cleaning is negligible. Combine this with the use of greener solvents and the investment in a high-quality wardrobe makes sense financially as well as environmentally.
Consider the lifespan of a tailor-made, wool suit. Assuming you are wearing it three times a week, you will likely need to have it dry cleaned once a month – less often if you wear it less. That suit has the potential to last for decades, assuming the cut is still flattering and the style is timeless.
Stop throwing money into the landfill. Instead, invest in high-quality clothing, dry clean it regularly and know that you are reducing your impact on the planet.