I took a walk in the mountains the other day with my dog to clear my head. In these times, there is so much going on in the world that it is sometimes easier to just move forward and ignore, The problem is ignoring is an active decision itself. My walk was just after the first real snow of the season. As we got higher, a total whiteout engulfed us and after another hour, I found myself a bit confused as to my exact location. I tried to use the map on my telephone but there was no coverage, so the only way back was to track my own steps.
So what does this have to do with sustainability in the textile industry? The whiteout forced me to concentrate on the problem and take action in order to get back to safety.
The planet on a nice day allows us to be swallowed into its wonder and beauty and forget there are any problems at all.
But at the same time, there are places experiencing the screaming out for help as destruction continues to occur. So what can we do? We recycle our paper and plastics to do our part. The problem is the more damage we do rather than provide benefits, the more we are dragging the planet down with us. The only solution is awareness and action.
Awareness means analyzing the damage we cause by our choices. As my walk in the mountains forced me to carefully retrace by tracks and evaluate, I also began to think of my other choices. How can I reduce my impact on the planet and is it possible to do it without fully changing the way I live? Focusing on the textile industry and each person’s impact on it, I thought about our choices in purchasing. Do we need more products? That answer is normally no, but even if we don’t need it, do we really want that product, and am I answering the right questions before I buy? Is it something I love or is it a trend? Can I see myself wearing it in three years? I sometimes look at trend products two years later and wonder how was this ever produced? If you don’t see yourself liking it in three years, keep it on the store shelf. If companies’ responsible for these products see consumers not buying, they will stop wasting valuable resources to produce something designed for less than a year’s use. There are large containers at some stores where you can return your old clothing for recycling. This is a positive step, but it is also dangerous. Recycling clothing because it is now out of style does not improve our footprint. Recycling requires collection, transportation, sorting, destruction and then the recycling process. It is better than landfill or burning, but it requires increased energy use, normally additional waste, and probably additional chemicals. The greatest savings comes with selecting the right product from the beginning.
Sometimes we see a product and think it is impossible not to buy it? It looks really good and it’s so cheap. Ask yourself why is it so cheap? Have I paid the right amount for the water use, preferred fiber use, cleaning the chemicals so they don’t enter the water system in another part of the world? Are all the workers involved paid a living wage? Is it the right quality so that it can last for some years, even if I trade, sell or give it away? Is it third party verified to protect the environment, workers or animals?. Ask questions, and if the store doesn’t know the answers, ask them to find out before purchasing. We need to reinvent the way we buy.
Spending more for quality that will last, and making sure the materials are as sustainable as possible from the start goes a long way towards reducing the continuous damage caused by the textile industry. The responsibility for change is shared between the brands and the consumers. Brands and retailers should not sell products that do not move towards solving these problems, and consumers should not reward brands and retailers that are not safeguarding our future by buying their products. We have but one planet, so we must do everything we can to retrain ourselves to make good decisions that will positively influence the direction.
Buy responsibly, take care of the products to prolong their life and use them for as long as you can or sell/give them away. Recycling old products is a last resort when its end of use means it can no longer be worn. This is what was done for generations, and retracing our tracks should be a part of the strategy towards returning our planet to safety just like safely returning home after a whiteout.
– Brad Boren, Director of Innovation and Sustainability