“Naked Brands” was airing, as I sat watching Bloomberg Channel on cable TV. The program was a spotlight on companies’ corporate social responsibility (CSR). Companies that where featured included outdoor/hiking wear manufacturer, Patagonia; sports-fashion technology company, Nike; Unilever Corp; Under Armour; Pepsi Corp; and so forth.
With a degree in International Relations (special focus on Political-Economy and Environmental Issues) I found the sustainable development initiatives of these companies seriously compelling.
In my previous post, “Why You Ought to De-clutter Your Wardrobe after the Holidays”, I made a strong case for having a lean wardrobe.
However, that particular write-up wasn’t just one of my thoughts; it, as it were, laid the foundation for my crusade for responsible and sustainable living as it concerns laundry and wardrobe.
Industrialization with science has been a two-edged sword in their relationship to the environment and quality of human life. On the positive side, industrialization has vastly expanded global wealth. Yet, on the negative side, industry consumes natural resources and discharge pollutants into the air, ground, and water.
Synthetic substances enter the food chain as carcinogens, refuse to degrade, and have other baleful effects.
With regards to clothing and accessories, here are some grim facts of a technical report from Waste and Resources Action Plan (WRAP), an organization set up to help recycling take off in the UK and to create a market for recycled materials. The report highlights those changes to the way the UK supplies, uses, and disposes of clothing could:
– Reduce the carbon, water, and waste footprint of clothing by 10 – 20 percent each, and
– Cut some three billion pound per year from the cost of resources used in making and cleaning clothes
The report sets out opportunities for the clothing sectors to reduce the resource impacts of the clothing—and gain business benefits from doing so.
Key finding include:
– The average UK household owns around 4,000 pounds worth of clothing—and around 30 percent of clothing in wardrobe has not been worn for at least a year:
– The cost of this unused clothing is around 30 billion pounds;
– Extending the average life of clothes by just three months of active use would lead to a 5 – 10 percent reduction in each of the carbon, water, and waste footprint; and
– An estimated 64 million kilograms worth ( around 350, 000 tons) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year
Also, according to a report from the Council for Textile Recycling (CTR), the average American throws away 32 kilograms of clothing every year, which equals roughly 191 T-shirts per person—collectively, that’s approximately 17.2 billion kilogram textile waste.
The economic repercussions of this massive thrashing are serious. Research from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that the average charge for landfill dumping is $100 per ton, meaning that taxpayers could potentially save more than $1.1 billion every year by keeping textile waste out of landfills.
Would you like to know what the environmental impacts are?
It’s dismal! When old clothes are buried in a landfill, they not only take up space but also contaminate soil and groundwater and emit horrifying odours.
If not buried, they’re off to the landfill’s giant incinerators, which release tons of green house gases, contributing to global warming and climate change.
This, for all practical purposes, is a loss-loss situation.
The final new reality in the world economy is the emergence of the transnational ecology. Concerns for the ecology, the endangered habitat of the human race, will increasingly have to be built into economic and business policy and practices.
And increasingly, concerns for the ecology, policies, and practices in respect of it, have transcended national boundaries. The main dangers to human habitat are increasing global. And increasingly will be the policies and practices needed to protect and preserve it.
Going forward, “what do we do?” is the critical question. Apart from doing little or nothing and hoping for the best, there are two options.
One is to restrict or even halt wardrobe development. The second option is to make the cooperative political, economic, and social commitment to develop in as environmentally safe way as possible.
SEVERELY RESTRICTING DEVELOPMENT
This focuses preserving the environment by consuming less. What is necessary is to institute an integrated global program to set permissible levels for consumption and emission, to mobilize huge financial resources for conservation and pollution control, and create “effective international institutions with legally binding powers…to enforce [the] agreed-upon standards and financial obligations” (Johansen, 1994: 381).
PAYING THE PRICE FOR ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE DEVELOPMENT
A second option is to pay the price to create technologies that will allow for a maximum balance between economic development and environment protection.
For me, the second option is the more feasible however, it has other challenges:
1. Short-term costs of environmental protection in terms of taxes to pay for government programs
2. The high costs of products that are produced in an environmentally way and that are themselves environmentally safe; and
3. The expense of disposing of wardrobe waste in an ecologically responsible manner
THE CASE FOR WIRE PROGRAM
Initiative for Wardrobe Redistribution (WIRE) Program involves educating and providing platforms for customers, prospects, and the general public on reselling, reusing, and recycling clothes and accessories aimed at reducing carbon footprints and ensuring a sustainable future.
Benefits of WIRE Program:
1. Saves money: Since waste is a sign of inefficiency, the reduction of waste cuts costs.
2. Faster progress: WIRE’s strategy improves upon “pollution prevention” strategies by providing a visionary endpoint that leads us to take larger, more innovative steps.
3. Supports sustainability: WIRE strategy supports all three of the generally accepted goals of sustainability – economic well-being; environmental protection; and social well-being.
Economic well-being is improved by enabling households to identify inefficiencies in laundry and wardrobe and thereby to find cost saving solutions to them.
– Waste reduction = Improved efficiency and lower cost
Environmental protection is enhanced by reducing (ideally to zero) wardrobe wastes to nature and by reducing the hydrocarbon extraction.
– Reduces demand for resources
– Reduces waste to nature
Social well-being is enhanced through efficiency improvements that allow more resources to be available for all. In addition, more complete use of “waste” will create jobs in return logistics, reprocessing activities.
1 Waste managers become resource managers.
2 Opportunities in return logistics.
3 New products from recovered materials.
Finally, a “WIRED” society would use far fewer new raw materials and send no wardrobe waste to landfills.
In subsequent posts, I will be issuing white papers on the various platforms, and partnership aimed at mechanically externalizing WIRE Program strategies.
Rotimi MUDE is the promoter of Magenta Aura Laundry, and also a regular contributor on www.malaundry.com/blog