Environmental Issues

As with any industry, there are some environmental issues within the textiles industry. The textiles industry is one of the many industries that relies heavily on chemicals. We dye fabric by the mile, and as much as we can try to be environmentally friendly with the disposure of that dye – more often than not we aren’t. A lot of the dye we use eventually ends up in the ocean, damaging both plants and animals.

In today’s society we rely heavily on plastic. From packaging to utensils, phone cases to toys – it’s everywhere. I don’t think one of us could go one day without coming into contact with plastic, despite our best efforts. The video below was shown to us during our lecture on this topic. I felt I needed to include it as it really struck a chord with me. The idea that in thousands of years time there will be a plastic layer in the ground, and that it will be considered a fossil makes me feel really uncomfortable. As a kid I used to love going to the local museum on a school trip to see fossilised shark teeth and animal shells – in a few hundred years we’ll probably stop finding fossils like that. Children will be going to see a series of screw on plastic tops from cartons/bottles.

The idea that we have created a ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ (discovered in 1997) is just disturbing. Out there in the ocean is a pile of rubbish that is older than I am, as it will have been there a while before it’s discovery in 1997. How can we be ok with this? How can we do nothing about it?

The video covers some other really interesting points on the effects of plastic on our environment. However, as a class we did consider that the whole video might just be an advert for an eco-friendly company – not a plea to change like we initially thought.

Cloth production is another environmental issue. Cotton, for example, is a fabric we create from the cotton plant. So far so good, no problem. The problem arises in that the farmers growing the cotton have to use pesticides to protect their crop. They can’t risk having a small yield because our industry demands that much product. These pesticides can then contaminate other plants and work their way into our food chain.

An article I found on the Fibre2Fashion website lists the environmental issues that come with cloth production and other areas of the industry such as farming and the clothing issue.

The clothing issue is an issue that is rapidly growing. A peer has written a report on the purchasing of clothes from charity shops. She showed me her results and the responses to the question “Why do you choose not to shop in charity shops?” were jaw dropping. The clothing issue is that we buy too many clothes. It as simple as that. The more clothes we buy; the higher a demand we put on the fashion industry to produce clothes; and the more damage we do to the environment. In response to her question, my friend got replies stating:

“The clothes are dirty”

“The clothes smell weird”

“I don’t want to wear somebody else’s old stuff”

“I don’t want to be frowned upon for not buying new clothes”

In reaction to the first two statements: you will own or have access to a washing machine. Contrary to popular belief, all clothes are washed before being donated to a second hand/charity shop. If they smell weird, that’s likely because you use a different detergent and aren’t used to the smell of the previous owner’s detergent. The stigma that we attach to buying second hand clothes is unfounded. When did it get like this? A few decades ago and a teenage boy would have been delighted with his Dad’s old jumper – now they’re disgusted. I know parents who are judged for buying second hand clothes for their young children. It makes more sense to buy second hand for growing children than it does to buy new. For starters, it’s more economical for the parents, and buying a whole new wardrobe for your child every 6 weeks is seriously not environmentally friendly.

Even those of us who do donate and buy from second hand stores and try to recycle where we can aren’t making a difference. We are the minority. I’ve heard of councils that actually throw the recycling and the general waste into the same landfill – the recycling does not get recycled. Which is wrong on so many levels. In order to make a difference, those who are currently trying to help the environment need to become the majority and not the minority. Unfortunately the only way to do that is to keep shouting like I am now, and hope that eventually people will listen.

Image belongs to Kevin Schultz

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