8. What do I do with old clothes/fabrics?
This is one that has loads of options of what to do with clothes and fabrics at the end of use line. It is also an issue that we need to think about the manufacturing and purchasing at the beginning too.
Firstly, we buy too much. Think about your wardrobe and drawers – how many of those clothes do you actually wear regularly? Did you know that “To produce just one cotton shirt requires 2700 to 3ooo litres of water. Textile production uses around 93 billion cubic metres of water annually, representing 4% of global freshwater use”. What one person drinks in two-and-a-half years to make one cotton shirt. In areas already facing water stress, cotton production can be particularly damaging. In Central Asia, for instance, the Aral Sea has nearly disappeared because cotton farmers draw excessively from the local rivers. Cotton farming is also responsible for 24 percent of insecticides and 11 percent of pesticides despite using about 3 percent of the world’s arable land. Water use and pollution also take place during clothing production. About 20 percent of industrial water pollution is due to garment manufacturing.
Do you really need that $5 t-shirt you’ll only wear a few times?
Secondly, we love to buy things that are cheap, but they often come from slave/child labour and don’t last. People are becoming more and more aware of “fast fashion”, which makes clothing cheaply and quickly with a low price-tag. But are we buying any differently?
The number of fashion seasons has increased from two a year – spring/summer and fall/winter – to as many as 50-100 micro-seasons. This pressures us to keep buying more often to keep ‘in fashion’ and the production is increased hugely. “The average consumer is now purchasing 60 percent more items of clothing compared to 2000, but each garment is kept half as long.”
Thirdly, is the environmental impact of synthetics. Synthetic fibres like polyester have less impact on water and land than grown materials like cotton, they emit more greenhouse gasses per kilogram. A polyester shirt has a greater carbon footprint than a cotton shirt (5.5 kg vs. 4.3 kg, or 12.1 pounds vs 9.5 pounds). Polyester production for textiles released about 706 billion kg (1.5 trillion pounds) of greenhouse gases in 2015, the equivalent of 185 coal-fired power plants' annual emissions.
Even if you buy them second hand to save from the landfill, they still shed microfibres when washed and pollute our oceans and sealife. Polar fleece is one of the worst for this. It is a real issue for opshops as people don’t want to buy them, so they have to pay to landfill (or send to Pacific Islands as ‘donations’ which is probably worse).
Our local waste guru Anthea has a vid and info here: Remix Plastic
Research the brands and support ethical companies - those that have transparent supply chains, support workers rights, sustainability practices. Check out the Tearfund Ethical Fashion Guide that is released each year that rates our larger companies like Glassons.
Easy Answer – buy less. Michelle from Flourish has focussed on buy nothing for a year and now after two years has only bought undies and one pair of pjs when her others died. She found she has enough in her wardrobe as it is and that wearing the same thing again and again is stress-free. If this isn’t possible for you then have a go at being ‘minimalist’.
We have a wonderful number of op-shops/second-hand shops across Aotearoa that often have better and more variety than the boring mainstream shops. Second-hand Christchurch is a great group and also has a map!
Us kiwis also have a wonderful tradition of handing baby clothing on too.
Clothing Swaps - Our library networks host “stash swaps” for craft supplies, which can include fabrics.
Facebook has many share, pay it forward, ITAC groups. Pay it Forward ITAC Christchurch (It takes a community).
There are loads of places to donate to and don’t forget your friends and family!
Repair cafes, Libraries and Stitch o mat run repair workshops:
Repair Cafe NZ covers Repair Cafes all over NZ and helps you set one up too. A monthly repair cafe is held at Riverlution in Richmond.
The library network also has sewing, embroidery and overlocker machines, as well as of course the library network has a huge amount of books and online resources around clothing repair.
New Brighton Stitch-o-matis a great place for people to get involved in community sewing projects, share and learn sewing skills
Our Waste Gurus live and breathe reducing waste, especially in their work places too. Sharon of Our Daily Waste "I made apron uniforms out of recycled cotton Hi-Vis. We needed something more functional, easy to clean, and most of more stylish than usual Hi-Vis. The X on the back made it really easy to find the crew on event nights too. They were all made from cotton fabrics bought in second hand shops".
EcoEducate used fabric scraps and turned them into Whenua Korowai Cloaks! The Cloak of the land will be on display at the Ashburton reduction centre. Lesley of Eco Educate "now purchases second hand clothing for our uniform and adds an embroidered patch we can unpick and reuse. This means staff are walking the talk and can have their individual look.
Any small bits of yarn fabric we put in goody bags we drop off to preschools".
*Data from World Resources Institute