Journey of the T-Shirt
With clothing being the second largest pollution source it is important to understand the effects of disposing of your clothing versus recycling them. When thinking about that band t-shirt you got while jamming out to at their live concert, you don’t think of it as a toxic item leaking gases into the soil affecting the planet. After you’ve had your share of good times with that t-shirt and it can’t take one more night on the town, you toss it…no one will want a worn out hole riddled t-shirt with a band they have never heard of. That same t-shirt will go to the landfill and start to release greenhouse gases, a lethal combination of carbon dioxide, methane gas, and other gases that will be absorbed by the surrounding soil and water.
Environmental Impact of the Shirt
Unfortunately the carbon footprint of the t-shirt doesn’t begin there. The t-shirt begins its journey of pollution at the farm, where the cotton gets harvested. Some of this cotton is conventionally farmed, grown using pesticides and synthetic fertilizer. The toxic chemicals not only affect the environment but also the workers that aid in harvesting, exposing them to more toxins than they face regularly. These chemicals can cause brain tumors and serious birth defects. Supporting organically grown products will help save the environment and farmers from being exposed to toxins. It takes 700 gallons to make the t-shirt, by switching to organically grown 218 billion liters of water can be saved, and that’s just one benefit.
Now-a-days everything is fast; food, information, gratification and fashion. Fast fashion is all about speed and low cost to deliver new looks inspired by celebrities. But fast and ever changing comes at a cost, the colors, finishes and prints are made with toxic chemicals, increasing levels of toxic chemicals in the landfills and dyes polluting clean water. Polyester is in many clothing items, when polyester is washed in a washing machine microfibers are shed that pollute our oceans, these fibers are not biodegradable, threatening our aquatic life. After the microfibers go into the ocean it begins a cycle where the plankton eats the microfibers, then they are eaten by their predator, moving up the food chain and back to humans, humans enjoy their fish and shellfish.
Being Less Wasteful
More than 15 million tons of textile waste is made in the United States. Some clothing makes it to the second hand stores but a majority ends up in landfills, again where your favorite band t-shirt starts to release gases, toxins and dyes into the soil. Recent generations have increasing disposable income taking away from the make do and mend mentality. You can help become an example to your peers by shopping at consignment stores and recycling your clothing when your done with them. Going to a secondhand store doesn’t mean you’re going to get junk clothes, consignment stores are full of quality clothes sometimes they have only been worn once. Shopping secondhand not only means fewer clothes to the landfills, but it also reduces your carbon footprint and the clothing footprint.