I was watching comedian Bill Maher this past Friday night do his weekly bit called “New Rules” where he gives his own comedic perspective of the weeks past events. One of Maher’s biggest passion is the environment and, has been known in the past to attack those who deny climate change for their idiocy. Mars was the focus of his weekly rant, while he has nothing against the planet in general, he does have a problem with billionaires, and visionaries like Jeff Bezos and Elan Musk who have an intense desire to inhabit the red planet. President Trump authorized $19 billion dollars to fund a manned mission to Mars by the year 2030, wouldn’t this be better spent helping to clean up our own planet? The damage the human race has inflicted on this planet can be repaired, our planet is not disposable.
What does this have to do with a clothing bank? Well as it turns out, a lot. Recycling cloth is one way to save our planet. The clothing industry is one of the worlds largest environmental violators. The amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) aka their carbon footprint which the clothing and textile industry produces is massive. It is estimated that the textile industry accounts for 10% of total carbon emissions or 1 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity in addition to using 9 trillion liters of water. One of the worst offenders is cotton which accounts for 40% of all fabrics produced. Cotton is cultivated in dry climates (southern U.S., India etc.) and requires vast amounts of water to thrive; one cotton shirt uses approximately 2700 litres of water during the cultivation process. Dyeing fabric also uses up large quantities of water 600 L per 1 kg of fabric, this lopsided ratio is frightening.
These numbers are large and frightening but for the average person they are difficult to put into perspective. The world’s largest retail and service group, the Otto Group conducted a study to determine the carbon footprint made by one ladies white long sleeve. The study discovered that during its lifespan this single white shirt will produce approximately 10kg of CO2. The breakdown is as follows:
~1kg Cotton cultivation
~3kg Spinning, dyeing, cutting, assembly, sewing
~3kg Packaging, storage delivery from point of distribution
~3Kg Laundering shirts for duration of ownership (based on 55 washes).
~10kg CO2 Total Carbon Footprint
However the last CO2 reading for laundering the shirt is based on a household that does not use a dryer or iron, add these two factors the CO2 emission increases by a staggering ~9kg, this almost doubles the carbon footprint to ~19kg CO2. While this number is frightening these numbers can be mitigated on our end as consumers for instance, using an energy efficient washer and dryer, using cold water instead of warm or hot water (90% of the energy your washing machine uses is to heat the water), and hanging your clothing to dry are all easy ways to greatly decrease CO2 emissions.
There are other perhaps less obvious ways to reduce the total carbon footprint of the clothing and textile industry, by recycling your gently used clothing to your local clothing bank and by shopping in second hand stores you are helping to decrease demand for newly manufactured clothing.
Saving the planet can be fun! Host a neighbourhood clothing drive this coming long weekend, and get your whole community involved. Call us at 416 751 0553 for more details.