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After tackling food and hygiene, this week our students Kim, Roos, Hanne, Bart and Julia are looking at the impact of clothing on the environment. They will not look at the social impact (who makes the clothing) of the clothing industry. Clothes make up between 3% and 6% of worldwide CO2 emissions. This percentage could easily be reduced. So you would think anyway.
“A simple answer to the question what the most sustainable material is, is not easy,” says Bart. “Organic cotton sounds sustainable. Less pesticides are used in growing cotton so less chemicals enter the water. But this does make cotton plants more vulnerable and it takes more land and water to grow the same amount of cotton.”
Hanne adds that “polyester hardly uses any land or water. But it does take a lot of fossil fuels to produce.” On top of that, when washed, polyester releases minute plastic particles that enter the sewage system and ultimately flow out to see. This does not happen with natural products such as cotton and wool. “Only, wool comes from sheep and sheep have an environmental impact from the methane in their wind. But wool does last a long time.”
‘A dress code is fine as long as you do not need to buy new clothes’
Alright, so there is not much difference in new clothes. What have the students done to reduce their impact?
“Buy secondhand clothes, for example,” says Hanne. “You can find the prettiest things at the Kringloop (secondhand shops, Eds.). You can also exchange clothing at swap events. You get tokens for the clothing that you bring and you can use them to ‘buy’ clothing from others.” “Or you can hold a clothing exchange afternoon with friends,” says Roos. “You can also rent clothing for a gala, for example. Then you don’t need to buy a special evening dress that you won’t wear again.” “A new item of clothing for every event is too much anyway,” says Bart. “A dress code can be fun, but not if you always have to buy new clothes.”
“You can also use your clothes more sustainably,” adds Kim. “I find myself washing clothes before they are really dirty. After I found a new way to keep my clothes clean, I wore the same dress all week. What I do is hang it in the bathroom when I shower so that it gets steamed.” You could also hang your clothes outside overnight and put your jeans in the freezer overnight to get rid of smells. If you have a small stain, you don’t need to wash the whole thing, but just wash the stain. And is a dryer really necessary? “If you wash your clothes less, they stay good longer and you don’t need to buy new clothes as often.”