A new Greenpeace report highlights pollution from clothing production. What can we do as consumers to make a difference?
China’s Zhejiang Province is home to many textile manufacturers that supply fabric to major clothing brands like Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, Adidas, Esprit, Gap, and Calvin Klein. Unfortunately, these factories supply more than beautiful fabrics; they also spew toxic chemicals to Water Waste Treatment Plants, and from there these toxins travel to the surrounding waterways, polluting the region’s water supply. These chemicals can cause an array of damage from harming or even killing aquatic life to health problems in humans. The source of the chemicals is often fabric dyes, which can contain all sorts of toxins.
Because the polluted water goes through a treatment plant, it’s impossible to nail down which factories are at fault here, and Greenpeace is calling for more transparency from China’s textile manufacturers and a commitment to phase out these harmful chemicals.
Toxic Clothing: What You Can Do
Since so many major brands could (or could not!) be part of the problem, you have two good options as a consumer right now:
1. Stick with brands that you know are not toxic.
Organic brands are a great choice, since organic dyes are less harmful to the environment. Instead of Victoria’s Secret, check out Blue Canoe, for example. You can also buy handmade from artisans who dye their own fabrics, source ethically-dyed fabrics, or use reclaimed/vintage fabrics instead of new. Check out Etsy sellers like Jennifer Joy Creative, Pierogi Pinic or Soul Role for handmade fabric that doesn’t pollute waterways.
Buy Second Hand or Vintage
Sure, second hand and vintage clothing may have been not-so-ethically dyed, but what’s done is done, and when you choose second hand clothing, you’re voting with your dollar for less consumption and therefore less production. The thrift store is probably the cheapest option for second hand clothing, but if you don’t like digging through racks for thrifted gems, you have some other options.
Consignment shops sell second hand clothing, but their inventory is curated by the owner or manager, so they do the digging, not you. Vintage shops have the same advantage. You can also check out Etsy’s vintage section, which is a great place to find vintage clothing online.
Do you have a favorite clothing brand that uses ethical dyes? Tell us about them in the comments!