What would it take for you to change your buying habits?

Written by: Tara Palmer – The Pro Forum Community of Practice

Portrait of female brunette cosmetologist in uniform in the cosmetology office three young women

We often talk about global warming and the need to change but what exactly does that mean? What types of changes can we make to ensure we are not contributing to the problem?

It is heartening to know that we do not have to buy a composting toilet or grow all our own produce to make a difference as there are smaller and easier things that can be done. One of those is as simple as changing our buying habits and more specifically the way we buy fashion, or from a work perspective – uniforms.

Pollution contributes immensely to global warming. The fashion industry has now become the SECOND biggest polluter in the world, the biggest polluter being oil. Would that surprise you?

The rise of fast cheap clothing has created a culture of disposable fashionwear with many consumers seeing clothing as single use items. This has added to demand and resulted in 80 Billion new items of clothing being purchased every year with a large majority of these items only being worn once or not at all. Shockingly, Australia is the second largest contributor sending 85% of the clothing we buy to the tip every year.

There is a long list of environmental impacts caused from our fashion buying habits:

  • 20% of the fashion industry’s water pollution comes from textiles. Untreated toxic wastewater is created at textile factories and dumped into local rivers. The wastewater contains lead, arsenic, and mercury along with other toxic chemicals.
  • Over-use of fertilisers used in the production of cotton also creates water contamination.
  • 200,000 tonnes of fabric dye is released into water ways each year.
  • The fashion industry uses massive amounts of water, with cotton requiring 20,000 litres of water to create 1kg of cotton, as well as 200 tonnes of water needed for each tonne of dyed clothing.

The list goes on; however, the important takeaway is what you can do to ensure that you aren’t contributing to the problem. Thankfully, the solutions are straightforward:

  • Be conscious of the clothing items you’re choosing to purchase and ensuring that they are created with natural, organic, and eco-friendly fibres like bamboo, linen, hemp or made with recycled fibres. Reducing the reliance on synthetic materials can start with what we wear.
  • Buy second-hand clothing – this has become significantly popular in recent years with online and pop-up shops. There are even parties where people buy, sell, and swap clothing.
  • Ensure that the clothing you no longer want is appropriately donated or recycled to ensure it is reused and doesn’t end up in the tip.
  • Choose to purchase items that you know will fit you. Buying with a view to wearing garments multiple times is as important. Timeless fashion can mean just that – timeless!

Apply the same evaluation to the purchase of uniforms. An option may be to encourage customer-facing office staff to wear work garments in a style that suits them, but in your company’s colours, and then the company could pay for the logo to be embroidered onto the garments.  Also, ask staff to return old uniforms before issuing new ones. The used garments may be appropriate to donate to charities. Removing logos before donating is important though, so do ensure this is done.

Whether we are buying for the workplace or ourselves, if we all make small changes to our clothing buying habits, we can help make a change to a significant problem.

NOTE: The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter, and specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. The content must not be relied upon as legal, technical, financial or other professional advice.