The Industrial Footprint of Clothes
Whether it’s a pair of jeans or a designer dress, clothes serve many purposes. They protect your body from the elements, provide a barrier between your skin and the environment, and can even be used as a form of self-expression. However, these garments also come with an industrial footprint.
The clothing industry is complex and its products are made from a variety of materials. From plant-based fibers like cotton to synthetic fibers like polyester, there are plenty of options. Some of these fibers are even derived from food waste.
Using recycled materials offers an opportunity to reduce the negative impacts of our fashion habits. However, the textile industry’s use of non-renewable resources is very high. Most clothes are manufactured from crude oil derived from fossil fuels. This is extracted from the earth and processed at mills. Clothing is then dyed with petroleum-based chemicals.
As a result, the industrial footprint of modern clothing is huge. In the UK and Europe, two tonnes of clothing are bought every minute. Similarly, consumers in the US spend an average of at least one piece of clothing a week. But these clothes are often expensive and may not last for long.
Fortunately, some companies are starting to pay more attention to sustainable practices. Zara has announced a commitment to using sustainable materials by 2025. H&M is estimated to produce between 550 and 600 million items of clothing a year. And recently, Adidas has unveiled a line of trainers made from ocean plastic.
Another way to look at the clothes you wear is to consider its role in social status. For example, in some societies, the purchase of a high-end dress or a rare piece of jewelry serves as a signal of one’s social status. It also performs a number of other functions, such as providing a hygienic barrier between the skin and other parts of the body and keeping infectious materials away from the wearer.
Clothes are also very personal. For instance, a person’s favorite color or a specific style of dress can influence his or her mood and how they feel. A shirt or pair of jeans can express a person’s personality and tastes, while a scarf or other accessory can add a touch of style to a person’s appearance.
One of the most popular forms of clothes today is fast fashion. These clothes are cheaper and mass-produced. Unlike traditional clothes, these clothes are produced for a short period of time. By minimizing the amount of time between trends, these companies make a profit. At the same time, they encourage customers to buy inexpensive products. Although these companies have become popular, some people have criticized their commitment to sustainability.
Clothes are also highly susceptible to damage. Sun exposure can deteriorate the fabric, while moisture can cause abrasions. Additionally, fleas can hide in seams and zippers. Often, these damages are not noticeable until several months after the item is purchased.
In addition, the human body sheds a large number of skin cells and feces, resulting in the need to dispose of these materials. Moreover, the human body produces body oils, which need to be removed from the clothing before reuse.