Consumers today are buying more clothes than ever before. The demand for cheap clothes has pushed some brands to increase the number of collections they release every year. There used to be one collection per season—but now stores put out as many as 24 collections per year.
Who cares if you only wear a sweater once if it only cost $15, right? Wrong. While the price tag is tempting, fast fashion comes at a high cost to the environment.
An estimated 85% of all textiles are thrown away each year. That’s like one garbage truck full of clothes being dumped every second.
The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of carbon emissions, which is more than all international flights combined. It’s also the second-largest user of water because many of the items are made from cotton, which is a highly water-intensive plant. But what about those items made from cheap synthetic materials?
Synthetic textiles—like nylon and polyester—shed tiny particles of plastic known as microfibers. Washing a single load of laundry could release more than 700,000 plastic microfibers.
Microfibers are so small that they can pass through wastewater treatment systems, which drain into rivers, streams, and eventually the ocean where they become food for fish and other sea creatures. They’re invisible to the human eye and are impossible to clean up once they’re in the environment.
Here are a few ways to decrease the impact your clothing has on the environment:
- Avoid fast fashion. Go for quality over quantity.
- Buy used clothing.
- Choose clothing made from natural fibers such as cotton, hemp, and bamboo.
- Only wash your clothes when necessary. You can spot clean items instead of throwing them in the wash.
- Only run the wash if it’s a full load and use cold water (it releases less microfibers).
- Skip the dryer and harness the power of the sun instead.
- Invest in a solution to capture microfibers such as the Cora Ball, Guppy Friend, or a washing machine filter like this one.
Resist the urge to buy cheap clothing, which is often made of plastic and has a significant impact on our planet. Think quality over quantity when it comes to your clothes. Being a conscious consumer means more than just sucking responsibly.