I can remember as a very young child asking my grandparents what a certain wooden item was used for, and being told it was to help darn clothes. That older generation, partly because of lower incomes and partly because relative to wages, clothes were far more expensive, accepted and developed a make do and mend ethos.
That mindset disappeared several decades ago as the possibility of accessible fashion at affordable prices became more and more mainstream. Choice, variety and the access to something new has great appeal. However I, like many others, never really stopped to consider what might be the real cost. It is only recently that I discovered that within the clothing industry, and especially the short life garments end of it, there is significant global and environmental impact. The use of materials, water, chemicals, plastics and dyes in production and then the impact of land fill and incineration of discarded garments are hugely problematic. One estimate places that impact as equivalent to the carbon footprint of global shipping and air travel combined.
Most of us want to make a difference. We want the world to be a beautiful and sustainable place for our children and grandchildren. Seeing the fires in Australia, the ice melt in the artic and other degradation brings home the reality that global warming and environmental damage are the results of our human activity. Of course, there are many factors lying behind these alarming changes. This piece is not wishing to unfairly single out the clothing industry. The factors are many and complex. Everything from travel to manufacturing to food production to infrastructure development to name but some others, has an impact.
We cannot go backwards so how might we give thought to sensible lifestyle changes that make a real difference? What might be a new year lifestyle change? There are many choices we can make in relation to travel, food and other aspects of our lives. Giving attention to clothes is but one addition to the other things we might consider. You may have noticed that second hand clothes are now being called “pre- loved.” Swap shops are being promoted and entrepreneurs are developing new venues and opportunities to exchange. No longer is swapping clothes, or buying second hand thought of as rather sad. With the new year, let’s consider consuming thoughtfully, sharing more and even recovering a bit of make do and mend.