Each month, the climate action movement 1 Million Women has a focus on a particular area of eco-action. This month, it’s the Month of Fashion. To celebrate, and to acknowledge their younger sisters 10,000 Teens, here is an extract from my book for younger readers Green Stuff for Kids.
Everybody needs clothes. Clothes keep us warm and modest. And they help us look the way we want to look. In fact, clothes can be a lot of fun. But fabrics and clothing have a host of environmental implications. Growing fibres and dyeing them or making them from petrochemicals uses lots of energy, water and materials, and produces waste and pollution. Plus, the fashion industry itself thrives on trends that are so hot for a moment, before becoming ‘so yesterday’. The result is out-of fashion clothes that are thrown away long before they’ve worn out—something fundamentally not green! The good news is that a new breed of fashion designer is emerging—one who considers the health of the planet as well as what looks good.
Eco-action tips: good green gear
• Less is more! Get a few good quality pieces that will last, instead of heaps of cheap clothes that will fall apart or look daggy sooner.
• Avoid buying clothes that can only be dry-cleaned.
• See if you can buy clothes made from alternative fibres, such as hemp, bamboo and organic cotton. Surf-wear label Billabong even makes board shorts from fabric made from recycled soft-drink bottles.
• Go retro and look for cool second-hand clothes at op-shops, vintage clothing stores or online sites such as eBay.
• Swap clothes with friends. You can even get together and hold a swap party.
• Only wash your clothes when they need it.
Fashion is a big-bucks business! In 2000 alone, the world’s consumers spent around US$1 trillion worldwide buying clothes. The greatest profits are often made in the volume markets, where manufacturers aim to sell large quantities of low-priced items. Experts call this fast fashion, the clothing equivalent of cheap but unhealthy fast food. These are clothes with a very limited life span—they live fast and die young!
Imagine Emma Watson at the premier of the next Harry Potter movie. Photographs of her wearing a one-shouldered red dress appear in magazines and on websites across the globe. Suddenly, everyone wants one-shouldered red dresses, so clothing companies email designs to factories in China, which rapidly produce them and then airfreight them to stores around the world before the trend dies. This need for airfreight, instead of slower sea freight, consumes more fuel and creates more greenhouse emissions.
The Life Cycle of a T-shirt
Green Stuff for Kids by Tanya Ha, Melbourne University Press, 2009, RRP A$29.95.
“Something fun, informative and challenging for green kids (and their parents) to sink their teeth into.” – Tim Flannery