It has been said that the textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world, second only to the oil industry. Fast fashion and the desire for “on trend” clothing has doubled the production of clothing over that last 20 years. Many times an article of clothing is worn only 3 or 4 times before it is discarded. The average American consumes 82 pounds of textiles per year and the EPA estimates that textile waste takes up approximately 5% of landfill space. This is discouraging when 95% of textiles can be recycled for other uses; either through second-hand stores or in some new form (pillow stuffing, rags, carpet padding, etc)
There is a huge environmental impact for a single t-shirt. The amount of water used to produce one t-shirt is equivalent to filling 22 bathtubs. That’s a whole lot of water when you realize how much clothing goes unused. Above, you can see just a few of the statistics associated with textile waste. This is only the tip of the iceberg when looking at the problems with the fashion and textile industry.
I have thought a lot about this over the last few months as I have begun trying to create a small business of handmade goods. My focus is to be very intentional about the materials that I use and the products that I make. Through the use of reclaimed materials, I am able to focus on the handmade craft and not the fact that I’m adding one more thing to the over-saturated textile market. With a little bit of creativity and time so much can be found at the thrift store. My goal is to create things that don’t look as if they have been made out of used clothes; transforming the materials into something new and different. My hope is that the end product will be used more and have a longer life than the original piece.
I will not be able to source everything I want to make with materials from the thrift store. When I buy something new I want to try and be responsible about knowing as much as I can about the materials I am purchasing. Is it a 100% natural fiber? Where was it produced and/or grown? How do they treat/pay their employees? I won’t be able to answer all of those questions every time, but making informed choices is a step in the right direction. There are many small companies with a mission to provide quality materials that need support. Through the use of reclaimed materials and responsible brands, I hope to have a small, positive impact on the textile industry and the environment.