Cheap Clothes Hurt Mother Earth


A true picture of Motherhood. My favorite jeans are now a casualty from crawling on the floor one too many times to retrieve lost puzzle and bionicle pieces, scrubbing stubborn stains on hands and knees, and the wear-and-tear from endless airplane rides. My son took this BSM picture.

An article in Wired (Peak Water, May 2008), says that the production of a single pair of jeans takes 2,866 gallons of water. (A single sheet of paper requires 3 gallons of water.) A friend of mine, who works for a clothing retailer, says sales stay high, even when they sell cheap-quality clothes. So no, it isn’t just you, you’re clothes really are wearing out faster. Retailers across the board are lowering quality (who cares, just buy new!) leading to quicker wear-and-tear, more purchases, and ultimately increasing the depletion of our most valuable resource, water.

The same water that existed in the world millions of years ago is the same water we have today. We learned that rule in fifth grade science class, and we used to joke that we were drinking the same water that George Washington drank. However, the perils of global warming are subtly altering that reliable cycle of evaporation and precipitation. We don’t know, yet, what the ultimate effects will be.

Add the burden of more businesses, more homes and more water-intensive products and processes, and you have the very recipe that is creating our world-wide water reservoir decline. There are 1.1 billion people today who do not have access to safe drinking water, and that number is expected to increase. During the drought in the summer of 2006, London’s water authorities considered towing icebergs down from the Arctic, according to Wired.

With Earth Day approaching, I also learned, from the book, True Green: 100 Everyday Ways you Can Contribute to a Healthier Planet, that cotton is our most chemical-intensive crop, requiring 10 to 18 applications of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. One-quarter of global pesticide use is on cotton crops. It also requires 3,800 gallons of water, per pound of cotton produced.

Chemical-free organic cotton, linen, wool and hemp is the only solution. And, perhaps, maybe to stop giving so many airplane rides to your kids.

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20 comments to “Cheap Clothes Hurt Mother Earth”
  1. I always dislike when my favorite pair of jeans end up holy and unable to wear in public. I never throw them away, either; what if we can wear them for some reason someday?

    Maybe we can come up with a really cool patch…

  2. i should post pictures of the patches that every pair of jeans for both my boys have. it’s ridiculous how quickly they wear out! i refuse to be beaten — i patch & repatch until they fall apart :)!

  3. i buy most of my jeans used… but you’re right. we’re such a “just buy new” culture that we’re filling our landfills with old clothes, electronics, toys, etc, because the new ones rip, break, or just plain get “tiredsome”

    thanks for writing this

  4. I don’t enjoy when my favourite jeans get holes in them, but I rarely throw them out. If at all possible I patch them & keep wearing. I also have learned to give clothes that I don’t wear anymore away to places like my local Oxfam, instead of throwing them out – that way I’m helping to save the enviornment by not wasting & also helping someone less fortunate than myself.

  5. Wow…I had NO idea. I’m slowly becoming more green, but find the process somewhat overwhelming. I also feel like I get no support from my own family and some of my friends. This is a major concern for me!

  6. Thanks for that. I always think about washing jeans but hadn’t thought of the production of jeans. Yowza. Could get your mind a spinning.

  7. I remember smelling horrible chemical smells every time we drove by the cotton fields off of I-5 in California. Cotton is indeed one of the worst offenders for chemical use. Organic or biodynamic is definitely the way to go, if possible. There’s an interesting article about organic cotton in the latest issue of Living Crafts magazine.

  8. That’s so interesting. I never would have thought of jeans and water usage being tied like that. Learn something new everyday!

  9. Great photo! When are clothes get old we either take them to the bi-annual clothing swap or Freecycle. I hate sending things to the landfill if someone else can’t get use out of them.

  10. Aw, no airplane rides??? Never, at least until they’re 40+ pounds! : ) Not sure why but my jeans last forever, or until I outgrow them : ( but I save them and fit back in, eventually. I also buy a lot our clothes from thrift shops, especially kids clothes. You’d be amazed at the quality you can find at some.

  11. I actually like the ripped jean look, so I wouldn’t throw those out. Or you could turn them into shorts!

    Thanks for the info on how chemical-intensive cotton is. I had no idea. One of the reasons I try to buy used VINTAGE clothing for my daughter is that I find that they are more durable. A lot of the clothes she wears is probably older than I am, and they’re just fine.

    Fortunately, I live in Chicago, which is abundant in thrift stores. You’d be amazed at how many items still have price tags on them, as if the owners gave them away to make room in their closets for MORE new items.

  12. Good article.

    The other problem with buying cheap is that cheap often means – statistically – imported from China…which is wrecking our economy and sending billions of US dollars overseas that we never see back.

    Also, “going green” doesn’t mean buying better, it means buying LESS.

    (…by the way…found you via Blogrush…)

    Great point, Michael. Buy less… and meanwhile we’re making an entire industry out of buying green!!

  13. Great info…

    For awhile, I could not figure out why the knees of my jeans were always faded and torn and dusty… then I finally realized that I’m constantly on my knees at the playground, tying little shoelaces, putting barrettes in hair, etc. etc.

  14. Pingback: Recycling Old Jeans — Susiej

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