Challenge #38 ~ Extend the Life of Clothes

Read the blog post on the November Theme – FASHION

Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

Has a favorite outfit ever let you down? You bought it and it looked great on you when you wore it for the first time, but then, after the first wash, it was a lot less attractive or perhaps even out of shape? 

This week we make durability your new clothes mantra. We are carefully examining our buying choices and how to get the biggest bang for the buck. We will scrutinize materials and material additives because that determines not only care instruction like washing and drying or dry cleaning, but also what ends up in our bodies and in our oceans. 

This week our challenge is about extending the life of our favorite clothes while reducing our cancer risk, saving water and energy, and reducing ocean microplastics. That sounds like an interesting wild mix of things!

Now with spacious closets, we can take a closer look at the quality of the fabrics and fibers and assess if our clothes are really good for us. Did you know that our skin is our biggest organ and absorbs whatever we place on it? So it is our responsibility to check labels and make sure that clothes do not pose a health threat. The simple act of label-checking can help us become climate-action fashionistas. 

Buying and wearing clothes that will last means investing into quality fabrics made from responsible materials that are natural, renewable, recycled, biodegradable, and/or are low-impact textiles. What does that mean? While instant gratification from a new cheap T-shirt may be tempting, it often only serves a short-term interest. Higher quality clothes may be a bit more expensive but over a long period of time the value per wear we get out of it is much higher, and offers a number of benefits to us personally – as well as to those who make the clothes, and grow and spin the fibers into healthier yarns, which in turn leaves agricultural fields free of harmful chemicals and toxins.

We think that buying poor quality, fast fashion is a lot like peeing your pants when you’re cold. It feels nice at first, but it’s not so good later on.”

Green Girl Leah

In our monthly blog Fashioning a Greener Future we touched on the fashion industry’s need for improvements to adopt new standards to clean up its act and address sustainable development goals. The A-Z Guide to The Fashion Industry is an animated list of all components that make for better fashion, from manufacturers to factories. Our consumer behavior as purchasers of clothes sends a message to brands and companies. We have choices and make choices. Let’s make our decisions as informed consumers to make our choices count and have impact. We just need to know what to think about and what to look out for when shopping for clothes. The A-Z Guide is a quick and easy to understand reference tool. 

“Would you reconsider that little black dress if it put your body at risk for cancer? Unlike the nutrition facts on the back of our favorite foods, clothing doesn’t come with a conveniently itemized list of ingredients. Instead the 8,000 synthetic chemicals used in fashion manufacturing, most of which contain known carcinogens and hormone disruptors, are kept undisclosed and hiding within the fibers of the industry’s most sought out styles.” 

Remake

It is one thing to decide for ourselves to buy a piece of clothing and take that risk. It is a whole different story when we buy our children clothes that should protect them and instead exposes them to known carcinogens. Children’s pajamas, for instance, used to be treated with chemicals that are confirmed to interfere with a child’s healthy development and disrupt hormones and reproductive systems, in order to prevent injury from fire. 

Acting on this weekly challenge will keep us healthier because it removes harmful chemicals from our clothes and while doing so, reduces our carbon footprint and helps address SDGs #3 Good Health and Wellbeing, #6 Clean Water and Sanitation, #8 Decent Work and Economic Growth, #9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, #12 Responsible Consumption and Production, and #13 Climate Action.

Get started with these tips

  • Invest in quality clothes – luxury or fast fashion, there are companies that differentiate with healthy fabrics and processes in making clothes. See Challenge 36 ~ Wear Your Values for brands that stand out.
  • Buy for at least 30 wears. An incremental cost increase at the cashier could mean our clothes become exponentially more affordable over a longer period of time because the cost-per-wear goes down.

    A QR100 item worn 30 times costs just QR3.3 per wear, whereas a QR50 item worn just 5 times costs QR4 per wear. You would need to purchase 6 of the QR50 items, costing a total of QR300 for the same amount of use as the more “expensive” QR100 item.
  • Check labels for material and choose natural healthy fibers like organic cotton, linen, hemp, or silk, or alternative sustainable fabrics like Tencel™ Lyocell, Repreve, or Econyle. Avoid synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon as these clothes and fabrics, when washed, shed microplastics that can ultimately reach our oceans. 
  • Wash less and on shorter cooler cycles to make things last and help reduce ocean microplastic pollution. Wash in cold water on a shorter cycle when needed, and air dry clothes to utilize the sun’s energy and natural antibacterial treatment. The most resource intensive aspects of laundering clothes are the heating of the water and the removing of the water through an electric or gas dryer.
  • Read our monthly blog to re-evaluate clothes made from bamboo.
  • Signal your knowledge and interest by asking questions about clothes before buying and demanding information about materials, making, and processes. Shop attendants will report back to companies that there is growing consumer pressure to make this information available and better yet, change dirty practices. 
  • Avoid dry cleaning to protect your brain. Perchloroethylene or PERC the industrial chemical used in dry cleaning was declared a neurotoxin and known carcinogen already in the 1970s. 

Yes, you, too, can make a difference in the world, one person at a time.

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