I became a vegetarian many years ago when I found out that it takes over 2000 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of ground beef. Livestock are also fed 6 pounds of plant protein for every pound of beef. To me it seemed that our resources were being squandered to accommodate our appetite.
When I started making clothing again I thought about the fabrics that I might use and the impact on our water. Polyester was the first fabric that was off my list. I remembered a polyester shirt that I wore in grade 11, which I both loved and hated. I loved the style and bright colours but I hated how it made me sweat. It did not breathe, it stuck to my skin and another girl in my class bought the same shirt. So much for originality. I know that polyester has changed a lot over the years but we now have to worry about microfibres. Microfibres are microscopic fibres which come off of our polyester clothing every time it gets washed. These fibres slide through all of the filtration processes that water goes through on its way to the ocean. Once in the ocean these microfibres absorb pollutants and are then ingested by fish and other marine life. We then eat the fish, shrimp, crabs and ingest the microfibres and whatever they have absorbed. Food for thought.
However fabrics that did stay on my must use list are bamboo, hemp, linen, organic cotton and organic animal fibres, wool, alpaca, silk.
Regular or non-organic cotton, which is used in the fast fashion trade uses thousands of gallons of water and tons of pesticides to grow a field of cotton. The processing and dying of fast fashion t-shirts again takes thousands of gallons of water. I’m all about not wasting water !
Organic cotton on the other hand does not use the pesticides and are likely to be free from chlorine bleaches and synthetic dyes. As new cotton fields become organic, (it takes 3 years of no pesticides to be certified), the cotton plant’s thirst for water goes down. With organic fertilizing, companion planting and other organic practices growers are hoping that cotton will thrive with just rain water.
Bamboo is said to be hypoallergenic, absorbent, fast-drying and naturally anti-bacterial and comes from a very fast-growing plant. Much of the bamboo that I have used is very soft, washes well and is very comfortable to wear. It’s not perfect though. There are concerns over the chemicals used in its processing. I’m sure these will get better in time. Bamboo does however use less pesticides, fertilizers and water.
Linen is made from flax, another traditional fibre crop which needs few chemical fertilizers, and less pesticide than cotton. Linen tends to keep you cool in hot weather because it absorbs moisture off your body. For years some people have said that linen is only to be worn in the summer months and should be packed away with your white shoes and belt on Labour day weekend. I personally think linen is a great fabric and should be worn in every season.
Hemp is probably one of the best fabrics to use these days, though sometimes not as easy to get a hold of and it definitely doesn’t come in as many varieties of styles as other fibres. It grows very well without the use of chemicals or gallons of water. Hemp is a traditional fibre that was used for thousands of years until the 1930’s when it became illegal for political reasons. I imagine that within a few years hemp will gain back it’s popularity.
We can’t all change our complete wardrobes over night but the next time you go shopping keep in mind what fabric your new clothes are made of.
Bamboo Dress, Linen Top