Combatting the Changing Climate

Reusable cotton bags with with recyclable items printed on it, hanging on supermarket trolley - Islington, London, UK.Listening to the BBC’s podcast of Costing the Earth earlier this year, a startling fact that has stayed with me was that we have to use a cotton bag over a thousand times in order to make it more environmentally friendly than a plastic one. Now this really struck me as shocking, considering that one of the main factors as to why so many people use them is that they think that they are better for the environment. This raises the question as to how much knowledge the general public really have about these serious issues regarding what is good and what is bad for our environment, and how we can be influenced into making decisions, perhaps without knowing all of the facts.

The production of clothes is one of the most polluting industries on our planet, debatably second only to oil; this isn’t only because it takes 10,000 litres of water to produce one kilo of cotton, meaning it takes about 2,700 litres to make one cotton t-shirt. When you buy clothing you therefore ‘use’ water from wherever the cotton was. In most cases, this comes from the steadily vanishing waters of the Aral Sea, a landlocked oasis in the deserts of Central Asia. Once the 4th largest lake in the world, but now virtually gone – mainly because of cotton cultivation, where water sources have been transferred to huge cotton farms. It has been called one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters by the UN. In the sea’s place, 43 million tons of pesticide-laden dust is blown into the air every year. The Aral Sea region suffers from the highest rates of throat cancer in the world – representing 80% of cancer cases. Hazardous pesticides commonly used for cotton production are also often found in nearby water resources. In parts of Uzbekistan, groundwater at depths up to 150 metres is often polluted with pesticides. I find it ironic how it’s a constant question we ask ourselves and each other – is it made of a good material? Is it made of cotton? These thoughts have become ingrained so much that we barely question anything further.

Journalist Jo Fidgen recently discussed everyday solutions to the global warming crisis, in terms of buying and treating clothes. She spoke about unconventional cleaning methods, such as cleaning jeans (which uses up to around 1800 gallons of water in their making, but also around 50l in every machine wash) by putting them in the freezer instead of the washing machine. This allows for the killing of the bacteria that may make jeans smell, whilst preventing the usage of gallons of water. We are continuing to come up with innovative yet simple changes such as this, and at just the right time.

It is clear that we are certainly not paying enough attention to this major issue in everyday life; I am personally a lover of fashion, and to me, it seems such a shame that as a global community, we have not done more to prevent the downfall of our environment by looking beyond the cheapest options for buying clothes. I believe it is essential to share resources and background information in order to consider the impact of your choices, and to better our general approach to combatting the changing climate.

Davina, Head Girl’s Team

 

Photo Credit:
Environmental Images / Universal Images Group / Universal Images Group

 

 

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