What’s your waist size?
There are over 7.4 billion people on this planet. That’s a staggering number. In fact, the world’s population has doubled since 1970.
If you count one number a second without stopping until you reach one billion, you’d be counting for over 32 years, 259 days, 1 hours, 46 minutes, and 40 seconds. That’s how much one billion is…now multiply that by 7.4 and that’s how many people live on our planet.
Now consider this — if each person on the planet owned just one shirt, one pair of pants and one coat, that would total 21 billion items of clothing. If you were to count each of those pieces of clothing at a rate of one per second, it would take you nearly 680 years!
In the western world, we own a lot more just one pair of pants, one shirt and one jacket. We have closets full of clothes in every colour, for every event, every season and every situation. According to the environmental watchdogs at treehugger.com, consumers now buy four times more clothes than we did two decades ago.
Given that there are so many of us with such insatiable needs, the statistics surrounding the textile and fashion industry are overwhelming.
So where does all this go?
Some waste is inevitable, and you’ve probably donated a few dresses to charity, gave away a few great shirts to a friend, and threw out a few pairs of pants that were worn out.
But – eventually – all of these items will end up in a landfill.
Consider these alarming statistics:
- the average North American throws away about 65 pounds of clothing per year, and along with other textiles that get tossed, like sheets and bedding, the total comes out to 14.3 million tons of annual textile waste per year.
- textile waste accounts for 6% of all municipal waste
- 85% of our collective apparel ends up in a landfill
- millions of tons of unused fabric at Chinese mills go to waste each year simply when dyed the wrong color.
- decomposing clothing releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas and a significant contributor to global warming
- only 0.1 % of all clothing collected by charities and take-back programs is recycled into new textile fiber
All of this in the name of fashion.
So what can we do?
To start, always buy clothes made of organic material. Organic cotton, in a landfill, is not harmful to the environment and will decompose as nature intended. Similarly, bamboo or help clothing is made without the use of pesticides or harmful finishes, and it breaks down quickly because it’s plant-based.
Secondly, buy less. Do you really need 5 cheap shirts that will inevitably quickly wear out, or would 2 high quality pieces made of natural fibers and made to last serve you much better?
Not all waste can be avoided, but if you learn to get creative it’s possible to repair, adapt and revive existing clothing.
Most importantly, give thought to what you need and what you buy. The choice is up to all of us.