Numerous articles over the last few years have highlighted the environmental impact of so called “fast fashion”. Fashion brands are no longer encumbered by high development costs and long lead times. As an entire industry developed around this model, costs of basic garments such as t-shirts have plummeted to a couple dollars. There is no longer an incentive for people to invest in clothing. When a consumer gets a promotional or free t-shirt, they can wear it once and throw it away.
While we can measure the economic costs of this model, it doesn’t fully take into account the environmental impact. As more brands pay attention to this social cost, there has been a shift towards more eco friendly fabrics such as organic cotton, bamboo, linen, and wool. This is part of the solution but misses the easiest solution of all – Buy Less clothing. Focusing on investing in fewer but higher quality items of clothing is the quickest way to reduce our environmental footprint.
Taking a look at the most common fabric in the world, cotton, one number stands out: 700. That’s how many gallons of water it takes to make ONE cotton t-shirt. Putting that in perspective, it’s recommended that most people drink around half a gallon to a gallon of water a day. That’s almost 2 years of daily water intake in one t-shirt. Just think of how many t-shirts you own, what’s your water impact? We are already seeing the taxing effect this has on local water resources. Arizona doesn’t seem like a place that would grow cotton due to its arid nature but it grows some of the finest Pima cotton in the world. The toll it has on water resources is immense. Globally, the most frightening example is the Aral Sea. Over the last 15 years, the Aral Sea has almost dried up completely. Both the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya rivers have been diverted for the irrigation of cotton. At its peak, the Aral Sea was the 4th largest lake in the world. If consumer habits do not change, cotton will continue to put an increasing strain on the world’s fresh water resources. 
The other commonly used fiber in apparel is polyester. Unlike cotton, which is grown naturally, polyester is made synthetically from petroleum-based products. This results in a large carbon footprint for the fiber. Polyester production uses approximately 70 million barrels of oil a year. Compounding the problem is washing synthetic fibers such as polyester can shed tiny microplastic into our water supply. Decomposition of polyester is similar to plastic and can take up to 200 years. If thrown away, polyester has a major impact on our landfills. However, there is a major positive resulting from this characteristic. Polyester can be recycled and even manufactured from recycled plastic.
Both cotton and polyester pose a threat to the environment. The one solution that we support at Larkshead is to just Buy Less. Spend more money on higher quality items that last. Since all of Larkshead’s products are made from polyester, we want to offset our own carbon footprint. In pursuit of that goal, we created our Buy Less Plant More patch with $10 from each patch going back to the Arbor Day Foundation. One of the best ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is still planting trees. Check out their efforts at arborday.org.
The Larkshead Team