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OK so clothing isn’t really about eating, but it’s a household issue so we thought it was worth talking about. According to ABC’s program War on Waste, Australians throw a massive 6000kg of clothing into landfill every 10 minutes. For those of you thinking you are in the clear because you donate old clothes to charity, sorry to burst your bubble but 85% of donated clothing ends up in landfill. Charities are groaning under the weight of donations.

Old clothes
Producing a single item of clothing uses a massive amount of resources. According to Fashion Revolution, 2,720 litres of water is used to make just one t-shirt. That’s how much water we normally drink in around 3 years! Not to mention the greenhouse gases released into the air along with the fertilisers, pesticides and toxic dyes that are contaminating waterways. The True Cost movie uncovers the devastating impact that chemicals from textile production have on the health of local communities. Communities located in cotton producing areas are exposed to pesticides and some leather tanneries contaminate drinking water. Sadly, these communities experience high levels of particular diseases like cancer and early death.

What Can You Do to Help? 

  • Choose versatile pieces that you love and will wear over and over again. For special occasions consider renting or borrowing an outfit. 
  • Buy pre-loved vintage items from a charity store to rescue an item from landfill and buy quality items at a bargain price. 
  • Support sustainable companies like those using organic cotton, recycled materials and those avoiding toxic dyes. Check out Greenpeace’s list of brands that are working to eliminate hazardous chemicals. 
  • Spend a little more on well-made timeless items. Look for heavier fabrics as well as strong and tidy stitching so they last longer. 
  • Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon and acrylic are types of plastic so when they are washed, tiny plastic particles enter our waterways. Instead choose natural fabrics like cotton (e.g. denim), linen, silk or wool that don’t release micro-plastics and decompose faster in landfill. A linen sleeveless top can decompose in as little as 2 weeks compared to a polyester dress that may remain in landfill for over 200 years. 
  • Use aprons when cooking to protect clothes from hot oil and food stains. Launder dark items inside out to preserve their colour as they may fade in the wash when rubbing against other garments. Do up zips or hooks and turn garments inside out so fabric doesn’t snag. 
  • Learn how to sew on a button or re-dye your favourite black jeans that have faded over time. 
  • When items are beyond repair, give them a second life. Turn old worn out clothing, tea towels and tablecloths into shopping bags, aprons, cleaning rags and much more! 

 Ethical Clothing in a Nut Shell

  • Be mindful of the human and environmental costs of fast fashion. 
  • Buy only what you need. 
  • Choose good quality products made from natural fabrics that will last longer. 
  • Only launder garments when they are dirty. 
  • Repair worn textiles or get creative and turn them into new useful items. 

 Further reading

Thanks to Rachel Ananin AKA for her assistance with this article.
  Nicole Senior     
Nicole Senior is an Accredited Nutritionist, author, consultant, cook, food enthusiast and mother who strives to make sense of nutrition science and delights in making healthy food delicious.   Contact: You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or check out her website.