It’s impossible to watch the news or scroll through social media without reading something about the devastating effects of global warming, and how we’re damaging our environment.
Everything we do - from driving to work to buying our grocery shop from the supermarket - results in more waste, more carbon emissions, and more guilt.
And as a ‘little guy’, it’s easy to feel helpless, as though there’s nothing you can do to stop the impending doom.
The truth is, you’re not going to change the world or put an end to climate change on your own, but you can make changes to your lifestyle to reduce your personal impact.
One of those changes is fashion, and choosing clothing from ethical and eco-friendly manufacturers.
Below, we’ve put together just some of the reasons why choosing ethical and eco-friendly clothing could make a big difference…
Fast fashion is killing the planet
The fast fashion industry is bad news for the planet.
The $2.5 trillion sector churns out 80 billion new garments a year to chase trends and drive sales, but the majority of the clothing is made from poor quality materials that don’t stand the test of time.
In fact, the vast majority of this clothing is designed to fall apart quickly.
It’s called planned obsolescence and helps manufacturers and brands sell more clothes, more regularly, to maintain their profitability.
What’s particularly concerning is that global clothing production has doubled in the past 15 years - an alarming statistic that simply needs to change.
The average t-shirt or pair of jeans requires 20,000 litres of water to manufacture, and countless chemicals and toxins that eventually make their way into our oceans or pollute the earth, causing destruction to nature.
Clothes that aren’t sold or recycled are sent to landfill or worse still, an incinerator, which leads to more toxic pollution and waste, impacting our cities, our people, and our animals.
According to 1 Million Women, only 10% of the clothing we donate to thrift stores or charities ends up being sold; the rest goes to landfill, where it can take many years to decompose.
When you purchase high-quality clothing from an ethical manufacturer, you can rest assured that your garment will last much longer than the cheap products you pick up from the high street or your local supermarket, and you’ll know that it was made with ethically-sourced and sustainable materials.
At Ultra Tee, for example, we use organic cotton, recycled polyester, and Tencel (a fibre made from eucalyptus pulp) which is less harmful to the environment.
Working conditions in fast fashion suck
In the past twenty-five years, 270,000 Indian cotton farmers have killed themselves due to the stress caused by the debt they had to accumulate to purchase cotton seeds to keep up with demand.
In Bangladesh, nine out of ten workers can’t afford enough food for themselves and their families - even though they work full time for a clothing factory.
Indeed, in Bangladesh alone, more than three million people work in the garment industry, with wages starting as low as £25 per month - far below the living wage - working from 8am to 8pm every day.
What’s more, three-quarters of female workers interviewed by Oxfam had been verbally abused at work and half had been beaten.
Many worked up to 140 hours of overtime every month, working until 2am, and more than half couldn’t meet the targets set by employers. In one factory, workers had to produce 20 ladies shirts every hour, an impossible task.
These statistics are just the tip of the iceberg.
In the fast fashion industry, workers are being exploited to create cheap clothing for Western consumers. The next time you pick up a new t-shirt for £2, consider where it came from and how it was made - you might just reconsider.
Switching to “slow fashion” might be more expensive in the short-term, but it allows you to support independent fashion businesses with ethical manufacturing practices.
At Ultra Tee, for example, we have an in-house embroidery facility in London, and our company only works with global partners who respect the rights of the men and women that they employ.
Each is carefully chosen based on their compliance with working conditions requirements.
Supporting ethical brands speaks volumes
The truth is that high street and online fashion retailers will only change their manufacturing operations when consumers speak out and vote with their feet.
Until shoppers can overcome the temptation of purchasing super-cheap clothing made in sweatshops, they’re not going to change - so supporting an ethical brand speaks volumes.
Eventually, as more and more consumers look to environmentally-friendly, sustainable and ethical clothing brands, the big chains will have to change their ways to meet evolving consumer attitudes and demands.
How long will that take?
Who knows… But the sooner you make the switch and do your bit for the environment, the sooner you’ll realise the benefits of ethical, eco-friendly clothing, and you can spread the word to your friends and family.
Which leads us on to our next point…
Your choices can encourage others to switch
Buying a few pieces of ethical clothing isn’t going to change the world overnight - neither is throwing out your entire wardrobe and switching to ethically-sourced alternatives.
But doing your bit allows you to fly the flag for sustainable fashion and encourage others to make the switch, too.
The next time someone compliments you on your t-shirt, you can let them know where you bought it, and it’ll serve as a real domino effect, until everyone makes the switch.
The truth is that most people don’t realise just how damaging the fashion industry is.
So, when you talk about ethical clothing and its benefits, whether with your friends over a coffee, at work during a presentation or at a social or community event, you’ll encourage others to consider their own relationship with fast fashion and re-evaluate their buying choices.
Better for your skin
Finally, a quick word on comfort.
It’s no secret that organic fabrics are better for your skin, as they’re produced without allergenic, carcinogenic or toxic chemicals.
That not only means that your dresses, t-shirts and jeans will be more comfortable, but they won’t cause irritation, and they’ll be better for you in the long-term.
Organic materials are often weaved wider than synthetically-produced materials, so are more breathable. That means you’ll be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, and you won’t need as many outfits in your wardrobe.
Synthetic clothing materials can lead to an increase in allergic reactions and dermatitis, whereas natural fabrics such as 100% cotton are also better at stopping you from sweating, which is a major bonus.
What’s more, materials such as organic cotton not only reduce the number of toxins you breathe in, but they also reduce the amount of pesticide chemicals released into the water supply when you wash your clothes.
Opt for materials such as silk, flax, wool, and tencel, and avoid materials such as polyester, acetate, rayon, and clothes that are “wrinkle-free” and “easy-care”, as they’ll have been soaked in harmful chemicals.
Which ethical clothing brands do you recommend? Tweet in your favourites using @UltraTeeBrand and check back for more news on ethical and sustainable fashion soon.