One of the most gratifying things there is for a blogger is to get a question from a reader. It’s even better when it’s a good question that you think you can answer. You get to show off your “expertise,” or at least your research skills, or dedication to your readers… You get to flaunt your “chops.”
When I got this question from a reader, after I posted this, I felt like I had earned something.
“Hi, I am no authority, but I thought cotton was a huge polluter too. Where do we go for data-driven information on this topic?”
Nice one, huh? Short and to the point, just the way I like them. Easy peasy, right? No!
If I’ve learned anything during these past 5 years delving into the slow fashion movement, it’s that nothing about it is easy.
Lest this demoralize you, I think I have one grain of wisdom to pass along when it comes to better participating in what is now, actually becoming a real movement. So here it is.
Go with your gut.
I got this explanation of what polyester is from a pretty obscure U.K. blog, however, it’s one of the best I’ve seen.
“Polyester is a generalised term for any fabric or textile, which is made using polyester yarns or fibres. It is a shortened name for a synthetic, man-made polymer, which, as a specific material, is most commonly referred to as a type called polyethylene terephthalate (PET). It is made by mixing ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. That all sounds extremely scientific,
but basically, polyester is a kind of plastic.”
After reading this definition, I believe that it should be clear to all of us that polyester is probably not a good idea? I know that I don’t want to wear a mixture of ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. I don’t want to wear plastic! Go with your gut.
By extension, of course, what goes on me eventually goes into the environment, and I don’t want to put more plastic into the environment. While yes, we can recycle plastic, the cycle cannot remain open. There’s not enough space on planet earth to absorb the plastic we are currently producing, and even if you don’t care for fish,
I’m pretty sure that you don’t want more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.
Go with your gut. Remember how when the slow food movement started we were told not to eat foods with ingredients like ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid? Well the slow food movement and the slow fashion movement have a lot in common.
Look! Another way to go with your gut is to look. What does the fiber above look like? It looks like plastic because it is, it’s polyester. I pride myself on having a magazine here that is esthetically pleasing; I like beautiful things and I want my readers to really enjoy the pictures I put up, so I had a very hard time deciding whether or not to use this picture.
When I look at this piece of fabric, I see cheap, shiny, plastic looking landfill filler.
It’s the kind of fabric that clothes at H&M are made of. Things people wear three times and then toss. It’s the kind of thing that not even thrift shops want. It’s crap. Gut again.
Now, my friend who asked the question, did not ask about polyester, I know. She asked about cotton and data-driven information. I just had to go with my gut and talk about polyester. But I will provide more information on cotton and also share resources for finding that data-driven information.
But to at least partially answer the cotton question, here’s one piece of valuable information about cotton.
There is a big difference between cotton grown “traditionally,” that is with pesticides and cotton grown “organically.”
The really big issue with cotton is that it calls for a lot, a real lot of water to grow. Organic cotton however, uses much less. Also, organic cotton is actually much more resistant to bugs and blights, it’s hardier. But yes, it does cost more.
I’m not sure what the questioner means exactly by “polluting,” but my guess is that she’s talking about how the fiber breaks down in the environment. And naturally, no pun intended, cotton is biodegradable, but plastic sticks around for a long, long time.