Energy is used in every stage of clothes production, from farming the cotton to transporting the clothes to your wardrobe – with dying, cutting, sewing and packaging in between.
The textile industry uses huge amounts of water. It takes up to 2,720 litres of water to produce one cotton t-shirt3– that's about the amount of water that an average person drinks over 3 years!
Increasing demand for virgin clothes caused by our 'throwaway fashion' culture has added pressure to the pressing issue of water scarcity. Intensive cotton farming in Kazakhstan has reduced the Aral Sea to one-tenth of its original volume in just a few decades.4
Wildlife and ecosystems don't escape the adverse effects of the industry either; the synthetic fibre industry and the intensive use of pesticides and insecticides in cotton farming mean that toxic compounds find their way into the water systems.
Landfill space is in short supply, they're filling up fast and none of us wants a new one on our doorstep. The advent of 'fast fashion' has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of clothes sent to the landfill – on average, each of us now throws 30kg of clothes in the bin each year – the same as 120 t-shirts.
Charities sell un-wearable clothes as stuffing and rags, so even if that t-shirt has faded, stained and ripped, it’s still got life before landfill.
Child labour and working conditions
We've all heard of sweatshops. You may not have seen one, but chances are you've worn their produce. With stylishly embroidered tops costing as little as £6, there’s little chance of a fair wage being earned by all.
This has been the focus of campaigns for decades, and thankfully they're beginning to pay off. The collapse of a factory in Bangladesh in 2013 helped to re-ignite this discussion. But it's pretty difficult for retailers to monitor a chain of subcontractors and suppliers all around the world, so sadly the unfairness hasn't been completely uncovered.
The average Brit spends £780 a year on clothes.2By buying better-made, longer-lasting clothes you could save yourself a lot of money - even if it means spending a little more upfront.