“In the same way we’ve become aware of our food – we are becoming more conscious of our clothing.
Today you are either wearing natural-fibres – or synthetic fibres derived from petroleum. I’m wearing a shift created with rescued wool suits that were one step away from becoming landfill. As a natural-fibre champion with a background in issues-based communication, I am seeking to help create a more sustainable clothing culture.
Thank you for this opportunity to raise the matter at this Brisbane City Council meeting.The past decade has seen a transformational shift in where and how our clothing is made – which raises ethical issues such as:
- Consumption increase – in two decades, individual annual fibre use across the globe has doubled from 7 to 13 kg each
- Fibre change – a decade ago, half of new clothes were natural fibres and half synthetics. Now 2/3 of new clothing are synthetic – and research shows they shed microplastic particles with every wash.
- Waste mountain – charities do a great job with the mass of cast-off clothing, yet only about 20% of donations find a new owner locally – the rest is ragged, dumped or sent overseas. Every year Australia exports 70 million kg of used clothes – they’re sold for $1/kg.
- Modern-day slavery – clothing is so cheap because garment workers in developing nations are being exploited. Rana Plaza showed us that and it sparked a Fashion Revolution of which I’m part.
- Loss of knowledge – we treat clothes as disposable. There is little understanding of the skill and time in making – and an inability to sew on a button or mend a hem.
Global awareness of clothing waste is rising and responses are emerging. The United Kingdom has a Sustainable Clothing Action Plan – run by resource efficiency group WRAP which works with industry and consumers. They have Love your Clothes – a campaign to help consumers buy, use and pass on clothing to reduce textile waste in landfill.
This is extending into Europe with the European Clothing Action Plan – a 3.6 million euro pilot project which aims to ensure less clothing goes to waste and encourages consumer to buy less and use it for longer.
It would be great to bring this new consciousness to Brisbane and Australia! We recycle paper, glass, metal, plastic … why not be more proactive with textiles? We need leadership to create a more sustainable clothing culture.
I am just one person creating change through actions – I launched Textile Beat at a Green Heart Fair in 2013. At talks and workshops I share a Slow Fashion manifesto – 10 small ways to reduce your clothing footprint. I hope this is the start of a broader conversation about sustainable clothing that can build on Brisbane’s great sustainability ethos.”