Many mornings, waking up to go to the University, I don’t know what to wear. And that is not due to the weather, which is normally unpredictable in Copenhagen, but because I have so many choices on clothes that make it difficult to come to a conclusion.
Realising how privileged this condition is, I started looking at data from textile production.
Textile industry: what’s behind it?
Statistics show that in 2020 a European citizen consumed on average 6 kg of clothes and 2.7 kg of shoes, and 81% of all the textile consumed in EU are clothing. This happens because consumers are prone to a very consumerist logic of following the latest trend (usually not just in regard to clothing).
The phenomenon when regarding clothes, is exacerbated by the so-called fast fashion, as clothes producers tend to step up the pace of design and production. Instead of focusing on the quality and the real need for the products, consumers tend to accumulate bad quality products for the sake of having more while spending less.
Some famous and global brands are responsible for setting up this trend, which is not only consuming a lot of textile resources, but it is also a major producer of pollution.
Clothes production is very water consuming. For the production of a pair of jeans are required on average 8000 liters of water. To produce a T-shirt, 2700 liters of water are needed on average, which is the amount of drinking water needed for a person in 2.5 years.
Moreover, many fast fashion brands sell products to a very low price, relying on cheap labour, mainly concentrated in Southern World countries where working conditions are very weak. (In regard to this, this very interesting documentary shows what’s behind cheap clothing production).
In order to maintain a very cheap price, the textiles used are of poor quality, generally made of synthetic materials. Synthetic fibres contain microplastics, which can be easily ingested or absorbed by living organisms and travel up the food chain, being frequently found in the food we eat. 35% of the microplastics found in the oceans come from clothing and textiles.
In addition, these low quality textiles make it very difficult to recycle or upcycle them, creating more wastes and going against any attemt to a more sustainable fashion from consumers.
The fashion industry is estimated to contribute 10% of global greenhouse gases, and 87% of the total fibres used for clothing is incinerated or goes to the landfill, while only 1% is recycled.
What we as consumers can do for a more sustainable behaviour
There are many ways in which it is possible to act against the consumerist mentality. For example by repairing your clothes once they are damaged, upcycling them if you want to have some new and different items in your wardrobe, reusing and experimenting for example with your relatives’ clothes. I love wearing my dad’s old sweaters!
Moreover, it is important to only wash clothes when necessary to minimise the release of microplastics in the water.
Whenever we go shopping, it is key to understand if the item we are looking at is something we really need, or if it is just going to swell the ranks of the clothes we will then use occasionally. If you are in need of new clothes, there is a simple choice that will avoid more pollution, waste and consumption: buy second-hand. Many cities already have stores in which it is possible to buy and sell clothes.
A nice initiative called November uden nyt tøj (November without new clothes) aims to get people used to the clothes they already possess, inspiring them to be creative or rediscover some old clothes they don’t use anymore.
Another initiative that started to spread in the last years are clothes swap events. In these events you are required to bring some clothes you want to get rid of, and you can take the same amount of clothes from the ones other people attending brought.
This way, your wardrobe doesn’t become a cemetery for old clothes, and you can get free clothes that other people are not going to use anymore. Your wardrobe will change continuously and you won’t find yourself with mountains of clothes you don’t know what to do with.
Join us for tips on second-hand shops!
As a mission, in Green Bike Tours, we want to show people what are the initiatives in the cities that can help you live more sustainably. Try our tours to get insights on where you can buy sustainable fashion in the city, and get tips on how to lower the impact of your clothes on the environment. Visit www.greenbiketours.org to know more!
Beatrice Carnelos, Green Guide