The Issue with "Sustainable" Clothing Items
Second hand items are cheap and amazing for the environment. It's can be difficult to find the diamond in the ruff of cheap polyester. Many have decided to purchase new items that are made out of organic cotton and bamboo. Are those sustainable options? Is it really organic? These type of questions have made me skeptical about purchasing items made out of organic cotton and bamboo. However, it's also very difficult sometimes to find items from thrift shops and second hand stores that aren't made out of polyester. What should we do?
At the beginning of the summer I purchased a white tee shirt made out of organic cotton and bamboo. I thought this was the best purchase I had ever made. It was soft, comfortable, and sustainable right?! I even posted a picture of me wearing it on my Instagram! What did I actually purchase? Bamboo grows everywhere and is one of the most sustainable products right? That is not completely false. It is a very sustainable product because it can grow anywhere and very quickly. It takes a ton of labor to make a sustainable product that isn't very soft, and a ton of chemicals to turn the planet into a soft piece of clothing.
In a pieces featured on The Guardian, it explains the ins and outs of the two different types of production. The first method involves crushing the plants into a mush, using natural enzymes to break it down and then combing out the fibers and spinning them into a yarn. This process is very labor intensive, expensive, and as I said, doesn't make that soft of a fabric. The second method, involves the plants being cooked into a cocktail of chemical solvents- primarily sodium hydroxide (lye, or caustic soda, as it's more commonly known) and carbon disulfide. Both are known to be harmful to human health, and sodium hydroxide can harm aquatic life when released into the water supply. After hearing both of these options, it seems impossible to get a pieces of clothing made out of bamboo without it being very expensive or full of chemicals. Is organic cotton any better?
Organic cotton is grown just as wide spread as bamboo, but isn't as sustainable. In a pieces featured on the Fashion Hedge, explores the production of organic cotton and GMO cotton. Though the crop has been used for centuries, it takes about 20,000 liters of water to produce 1kg of cotton; equivalent to a single T-shirt and a pair of jeans. 73% of global cotton harvest comes from irrigated land. 4% of the world's crop land is planted with cotton and yet it accounts for 24% and 11% of the global sales of insecticide and pesticides respectively. The use of genetically-modified cotton varieties has increased in recent years. Organic cotton does seem like the better choice than cotton full of pesticides and other synthetic materials. It also isn't the most sustainable in the long term, because of the amount of water it takes to produce it.
I have decided to go to option three, only purchasing items from thrift shops that are made out of sustainable products. As a result, I wear every item that I own. I use to donate 3 big garbage bags filled with clothes every season. Now, I only donate a small bag of clothes once a year! In doing so, I have been able to save up money and feel good about the purchases I do make. I have also been able to pay off a significant amount of my loans off and find new hobbies and activities to do, instead of going to the mall every weekend.
P.S- I will purchase "new" items that are made out of recycled materials, since I believe that they are a better and more sustainable option, similar to second hand shopping. Also, I have heard that GoodWill isn't the best company, in regards for wages and labor. I have invested the majority of my money in small business thrift shops and flea markets! Please let me know if you would like me to share my secrets in finding the best items at thrift shops!