Well that’s cured me of wandering around the shops in Brighton with my mouth watering. Yes, Brighton has some gorgeous clothes shops. But they’re honey traps with deliciously appealing clothes at not unreasonable prices. Not that I’ve bought anything new for some weeks now – thank goodness – because I watched Stacey Dooley Investigates last week and was properly brought to a halt with a suitable feeling of guilt and dismay. Not that I was unaware. I did know. Here’s a post I wrote four years ago on this same subject.
The programme was Fashion’s Dirty Secrets and centred around our love of fast fashion and in particular the impact of cotton on our global environment. If you haven’t seen it I urge you to watch this, as it will change your attitude to cotton for ever. Instead of reaching for a cotton scarf, tee or dress and thinking how lovely and natural that fabric is, say this mantra to yourself – dreadful, dirty, disgusting. And why? Because cotton has wreaked havoc on this Earth of ours and especially around the Aral Sea.
The problem with cotton is that it needs shed loads of water, and when I say shed loads I do mean that – watch the documentary. And pesticides. That t-shirt, that cotton dress you bought (and I haven’t forgotten those three dresses that I bought this summer) they’re the most unsustainable items you could ever buy. Far better to buy and wear something synthetic made in a carbon-neutral factory with carbon neutral fibre. Or organic cotton if you must, and with this heated up world we live in maybe that’s the way to go. But we have to take a hard look at our selves and our choices as we shop. Because the consequences of our love for cotton has been devastating as it has caused the biggest environmental disaster ever.
The Aral Sea, which lies between Kazakhstan to the north and Uzbekistan to the south, was once the fourth largest lake in the world, with lush greenery, ports and fishing fleets which supported whole communities who lived there for aeons. But the diversion of the rivers that fed that sea into Uzbekistan to irrigate its crops and predominantly its cotton crop, has dried it up to nothing. Watch the documentary and/or go google it – the maps tell all. So, while other countries grow more bales of cotton than Uzbekistan (China, India, US, Pakistan, Brazil) the cotton grown in Uzbekistan finds its way into the clothing industry through Bangladesh and China.
What is being done. Well, with regard to the Aral Sea a dam has been built in the north and Kazakhstan is seeing a small increase of its waters. In the fashion industry, there is some hope and yet again, maybe not.
Thing is I’m not going to name and shame because I think that before we buy we all need to do our own research and find out not only who made our clothes but where the cotton was grown, how it was grown, and how and where the item in question (that you’re buying) was made. We do all need to be responsible for our planet.
However. There are some good guys. Do read this report which sets out the Sustainable Cotton Ranking 2017. Partly funded by the governments of the Netherlands and Sweden and researched and written by the Pesticide Action Network UK, Solidaridad and the WWF International the report documents their approach and the research that leads to this ranking. A questionnaire was sent out to 75 companies to assess amongst other things their policy towards cotton (which would include targets for sustainability in cotton), the uptake (are they actually doing anything) and traceability (can they trace where their cotton comes from). The results are revealing, in that there are a few companies doing the right thing.
19 companies have some kind of target in their policies with the top 6 being in rank order: Ikea, Marks & Spencer; C&A Group; H&M, Nike Inc; Levi Straus & Co. The top companies actually doing something are: Ikea; Tchibo GmbH (that’s a German coffee company); Adidas; C&A Group; H&M. And with regard to traceability: Marks & Spencer; C&A Group, H&M are the top three.
Well, in future, I know where I’m going to shop for clothes. If I buy new, that is. Do read this report as there are some companies (quite well-known) who are doing very little. Of course, you know what I’m going to say (!) First is, that we just don’t need all that many clothes, really, and second, it is OK to buy clothes from companies other than H&M and Marks & Spencer if they’re second-hand, charity shopped and/or thrifted.
Yes, charity shop shopping is such an ethical thing way to shop: you’re helping a charity and helping to save the planet. And there are some great outfits and items to be had from these shops and outlets. It does make sense.
That’s all for now – but if you haven’t already do watch that documentary.
With love, Penny, the Frugalfashionshopper