Recycling Clothing for Climate Action
Did you know that only 15% of clothing is recycled or donated? That means 85% ends up in landfills. Besides all that waste, the clothing industry has a laundry list of damaging effects on the environment. The most noteworthy offenders: carbon emissions, water consumption and water pollution.
Clothing is made out of two materials: Synthetic (like polyester) or Natural Fiber (like cotton). However, each material comes with its own set of baggage.
Synthetics are made from crude oil, which releases two to three times more carbon emissions than cotton. The World Resources Institute has revealed that polyester production in 2015 accounted for 1.5 trillion pounds of CO2. That is equivalent to the annual emissions from 185 coal-fired power plants. Yikes. Plus, since polyester is essentially plastic, it takes hundreds to thousands of years to break down, and each time the garment is washed, hundreds of pieces of microplastic are released.
Cotton, on the other hand, is biodegradable… But that doesn’t outweigh its drawbacks. Cotton farming uses an enormous amount of water. The United Nations Environment Programme has calculated that it takes approximately 2,000 gallons of water to produce one pair of jeans. That’s enough water for one person to drink for 10 years! As a whole, the fashion industry is the second-largest water consumer AND second-largest water polluter on the planet. On top of the water consumption, the chemicals used in textile dyeing are rarely disposed of properly and often end up in streams and rivers.
Did You Know?
It takes approximately 2,000 gallons of water to produce one pair of jeans… That’s enough water for one person to drink for 10 years! Recycling clothing can help reduce water waste.
Over the past 18 months the world has started to make some real progress for the planet: several municipalities have enacted laws to limit disposable plastic use, NYC now requires all new construction to include solar or a green roof, and plant-based foods like Beyond Meat are becoming mainstream. However, the clothing industry has yet to have its climate-saving moment.
That’s why we created our Climate Action Film Festival shirts using pre-worn garments from our friends at Helpsy in White Plains, NY. Helpsy is a fellow B Corp with an environmental mission, committed to keeping clothes out of the trash, and supporting their community. During their hard work in 2018, they produced a net negative carbon footprint and avoided the use of 3 billion gallons of water. They have offset 320 Million pounds of CO2—that’s equivalent to the annual output of 31 wind turbines! Helpsy is not only committed to the planet, but also to our communities and our people. This past winter they provided over 120,000 high-quality used winter jackets to those in need in the NYC area.
Check out our recycled shirts from Helpsy being printed at New Duds!
In short, reusing and recycling clothing is a big deal. It reduces the environmental burden of the second-most polluting industry in the world. So next time you need a new piece of clothing, check out your local thrift shop.
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