Recently I shared a statistic on my social media that really sat with me, and I feel it is worth sharing, so people can start becoming more educated about the cost of what they are putting on their back. This quote is from the book “ Mend! A Refashioning Manual and Manifesto by Kate Sekules”  You can buy the book  by clicking here. It is not only a worthy read, but one of those books that you just KNOW you will reference for years to come! Kate has been making and mending for years, and is very educated and involved in the ethical fashion movement. I am completely inspired at her talent to see life in sad, broken pieces of clothing; she is a master artist. Here is the quote :

“It takes 30 baths full of water to produce one T-shirt. In the US alone, we buy 2 billion T-shirts each year. That’s 1.5 trillion gallons, or enough water to drown Manhattan “ 

Let that sit with you for a moment. Pretty shocking, huh?  Part of the reason why such a simple garment takes so much water to produce, is that cotton is a very thirsty crop. The water that we use at home is only part of our total water footprint, and I do not think a lot of people are truly educated about that. In fact, the gadgets you use, like smart phones, take 240 gallons to make one phone! Everywhere around you, it takes water to produce the electronics you use, the food you eat and so much more. One thing that surprises me, is that we do not put these statistics and warning on clothing labels. Can you imagine picking up a T-shirt only to find that the tag says ” This T-shirt was made with 30 bathtubs full of water” or “You are one of the 2 billion people that will contribute to using 1.5 trillion gallons of water this year”. Ciggarette packs have warnings, why shouldn’t clothing labels? 

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“But what about polyester, Erin? I will just buy a poly tee and save the earth!”  Um, no. Polyester uses the same materials found in plastic bottles. As quoted from an article on “”  When we wash our polyester clothes, thousands of microplastic fibres are washed into the waterways. In fact, it’s estimated that a single polyester garment releases 1,9000 individual plastic microfibers. And guess where these microfibers end up? In our oceans where they threaten ecosystems and end up in our food chain.

So this begs the question: What can we do? Well, for starters: Extend the lifespan of your garment. In fact, if you want to learn more about ” circular fashion”, see my blog post on the subject here.  Did you know, by wearing your cotton T-shirt 9 months longer, you can reduce the water footprint by 5-10%? That is a simple start, and I know that percentage seems small, but the more people that do this, the better!  All this isn’t to say we should stop buying clothing; we just need to buy smarter and wear longer. And if you’re not a sewist, or a mender, and you just don’t want that old t-shirt with all the holes, consider donating it to a seamstress like me that will gladly turn it into something new. There is always a way to keep that garment going rather then ending it’s life and polluting the planet:)



Erin Bass

*Fashion Designer * Upcycler*Girlboss*

*Erin hails from Portland, Oregon and is a self taught upcycled fashion designer, seamstress, and fiber artist. Want to see her work? Click here!

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