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  • Writer's pictureBen Pechey

Cottoning On

Climate change is unmistakably going to change the world as we know it, and one of my favourite things has a huge impact upon this: Fashion. When it comes to the pieces I bring into my wardrobe, I try to look at their impact on the world.

For a while, I was fixated on trying to reduce the number of synthetic fibres in my wardrobe. Polyester - made from petroleum - was always in my vision as something to move away from. Indeed figures from the Ellen MacArthur foundation show that the increase of plastic-based fibres used in fashion uses around 342 million barrels of oil every year.

So it makes sense that naturally sustainable fabrics - things that can be grown - and biodegradable fabrics exist, and are wonderful. These fabrics have much less traction in the fashion landscape - tell me anyone who owns a dress made of jute?

Cotton is something that I landed on as the best choice for my wardrobe. I adore a crisp cotton shirt - like the one I am wearing in today’s pictures - the sound, the feel and the way it allows me to feel put together yet casual. However, cotton may be a poor choice when it comes to sustainability.

I didn’t know that Cotton is one of the most chemically intensive crops in the world, the Soil Association's report “Thirsty for Fashion” by Hattie Shepherd reports that “global cotton crop accounts for 8.2 million metric tons of chemicals” - yikes! But that is not all, the chemicals and demand for cotton mean that cotton cultivation accounts for 220 million metric tons of CO2 per year. That is the same about of CO2 as 220 million return trips between Paris and New York by plane!

Cotton is desperately thirsty too. The Water Footprint network states that the global water footprint of cotton is around 8.2 trillion cubic feet a year. That's 1.64 trillion 10 minute showers. So the impact of cotton is huge.

This shirt is by Collusion (Asos) who are part of The Better Cotton Initiative, which “is a global not-for-profit organisation and the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world. BCI exists to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future.”

Even buying cotton from a scheme, or even organic, still has a huge negative impact. So knowing how much wear it will get is important. My white shirt is a no brainer, but lilac isn’t as simple. When I bought it, I planned six outfits I knew it would work with, today’s look, under my lilac Lazy Oaf dress, under any dungarees, with my lilac skirt, over some floral dresses and under a red suit.

Knowing the infamy cotton’s legacy has left on the planet means we must ensure we get the best out of these garments.

To consume is human, but how we do it can have differing effects on our planet. I am continuing to do my best - imperfectly I am sure - but the effort is there as I continue to embrace my love for fashion as well as the planet I live on!

Shot by Ruth Pechey


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