It may come as a shock to some that while consumer goods like medicine and food have risen in price, clothing has actually dropped in price. The numbers do not lie, during 1960 an average American household could spend over 10% of its annual income on clothing apparel - today this percentage is equivalent to around $4,000. By 2013, that percentage had dropped down to less than 3.5% - the equivalent to around $1,800 of an annual household budget. Overseas production has been a major contributor to this price decrease as labor is cheaper outside of the US. Overseas production has impacted the clothing industry by 98%. Put simply, 95% of the America's clothing industry was made in the US during 1960 and by 2013 this percentage fell under 2%.
Companies have also kept clothing prices low by utilizing inexpensive materials, like polyester. The manufacturing of polyester has taken a sharp upturn since 1980, vastly exceeding the sales of natural fibers like wool and cotton. Unfortunately, this price decrease has caused detrimental downfalls to the world we live in. Synthetic fabric production, like polyester, requires large amounts of energy to fabricate and is filled with tons of toxic chemicals. These factors contribute to terrible working conditions, excessive usages of our planet's resources, and holds the ability to cause sickness to our people. In 2013 alone, a Bangladesh polyester clothing factory collapsed leaving 1,000 workers dead and over 2,000 injured.
Luckily, today there are various ethical fashion brands trying to address and devoid these current environmental issues. Several companies are pledging to utilize non toxic dyes, eco-friendly fabrics, and pay their workers fair wages to combat these unfavorable conditions. However, with these changes our consumer costs with rise. The questions we find ourselves asking are - can the masses afford to be eco-friendly? & can we all remain steadfast in our principles without going broke?
One solution is to choose to solely buy sustainable clothing but to purchase less of it. This way you support your environment and stay within your budget. Take a second to think about how in this day and age people are excessively purchasing far more garments than necessary. This syndrome is known as 'fast fashion' and is due to the current price drop we are experiencing. In 1960 people purchased about 25 garments a year but by 2013 people began to purchase 70 plus garments annually. The math is simple, shop and less and you can afford to spend more on a few select pieces of sustainable clothing. It is in your best interest to shop smarter, search for clothing both good for the world and your wallet. Plus, sustainable clothing is also extremely durable and long lasting giving you the best bang for your buck.
Sustainable clothing is the smarter purchase as it is environmentally friendly as well as worker positive. Clothing companies that manufacture and produce sustainable clothing are known best for utilizing eco-friendly materials and providing their workers with fair wages/humane working conditions. However, do not assume that just because a company manufactures a natural fabric like cotton, that they are automatically greener. This is not always the case. Conventional and commercial methods of farming cotton commonly utilize large amounts of toxic pesticides and fertilizer. Sadly, these chemicals are not needed to grow cotton but several companies are choosing to utilize them anyways.
The greenest fabrics are comprised of renewable fibers that are fairly easy to grow and produce. These fabrics utilize smaller amounts of energy and water to manufacture. Oh, and did we mention these fabric are also recyclable? It truly is a win-win situation. Read below for a list of the top 7 greenest materials to look for when shopping for sustainable clothing. Please understand that the greener choice is always the best choice, as these pieces of clothing with last you longer and help to sustain our environment.
Linen is produced from a plant known as flax. Flax is eco-friendly because it utilizes far less energy, water, pesticides, and fertilizer than fabrics like cotton. It is also easily recyclable and breaks down in compost.
Hemp is another easy growing crop that does not utilize many pesticides or much fertilizer. Hemp is also amazing because its usage is limitless. The only downfall of hemp is that it is illegal to grow in many of the 50 states and is usually imported, raising its prices and carbon footprint.
Bamboo utilizes almost no pesticides what so ever and is extremely fast growing. Plus, it produces some of the softest fabrics known to man. However, bamboo needs toxic chemicals to turn its fibers into fabric which hurts workers if they are not properly protected. Bamboo linen is the greenest fabric produced from bamboo as it utilizes no chemicals. Unfortunately, this fabric is extremely rare.
Lyocell aka Tencel is a fabric produced from wood pulp. The wood pulp for Lyocell is typically taken from eucalyptus wood. Eucalyptus is a fast growing tree plant that needs little water and almost no chemicals to harvest from. Lyocell is unlike any other wood based fabric because it does not produce a large amount of pollution. Plus, its fabric is naturally wrinkle free and easy to care for.
Alpaca is a long haired mammal native to Peru. Its beautiful long hair produces incredible fabric that is actually eco-conscious. Alpaca is a much more sustainable fabric from that of cashmere because Alpacas do not need much food, water, and/or antibiotics to stay healthy. Alpacas also do not overproduce and supply much more fabric per one Alpaca. Cashmere on the other hand is produced from an asian goat. This special type of asian goat is known for overpopulation and overgrazing turning Mongolia from a country slowly into a desert, negatively impacting what is left of our green environment.
If done correctly, sheep farmers can utilize animal manure to nourish soil making the land much stronger and more sustainable. Unfortunately, some of the sheep farm population use toxic chemicals to treat their pastures as well as their animals. Organic sheep farms have chosen to avoid all harmful chemicals managing to keep both the pastures and animals healthy and toxic free.
Silk is a natural fabric produced by silkworms, a special species of caterpillars. This lightweight yet durable fabric is known for naturally breaking down at the end of its life span. Silk is commonly utilized for evening wear as well as thermal underwear as it is surprisingly warm. Silk is typically not worn by ethical vegetarians and vegans because the silk manufacturing process involves killing each silkworm. However, more and more companies are utilizing peace silk other wise known as vegan silk - a cruelty free silk alternative.