CHOOSE TO REFUSE
This article was written in peak "Plastic Free July", but how does that relate to fashion? And how can we turn a month of no plastic into a lifetime of significantly reduced plastic?
Image by Courtney Holm - washed up plastics from "pristine" Wilsons Promontory Beach
Choose to Refuse
After being part of a pop-up shop, mid July, within a high profile retail shopping centre in the Melbourne CBD, I felt prompted to write this article. Dwelling within that fishbowl of a retail store has given me some serious food for thought when it comes to the average human's shopping habits. Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I clearly live under a rock. A sustainability infused, trying to run my own small business, trying to make ends meet-shaped rock.
Nonetheless, two things caught my attention in these retail moments, and I'm sure they are connected. The first is that every single store around us featured giant decals and posters in the windows reading "sale" in every font, colour and style imaginable. But a lot of the stores were quiet.
The second is that people all over the place were walking around with bulging plastic bags (mostly from giant fast fashion retailer A and giant fast fashion retailer B whose names will not be spoken). I felt like a wildlife observer in an environment completely unfamiliar to me. What were they doing?
Shopping. It's called shopping, Courtney.
Now, it'd probably be fair to assume that these plastic-bag-hauling, very dear humans did not know about Plastic Free July. Or maybe they did, but hadn't considered how it relates to fashion, or shopping. Maybe they just really needed a puffer jacket. I'm sure several of them had a hidden keep cup in tow - I've got to believe. Hopefully, we are all just gradually trying to reduce our single-use-plastic consumption, especially in such an auspicious month as July. But in case it might not be common knowledge, here is a special list of how to be plastic free this July (and maybe every month after that), and specifically how it pertains to fashion.
1. Polyester is plastic.
Yup. It's true. That swishy, shiny, cost effective fibre is derived from oil, just like the plastic spoons from your favourite Chinese takeaway. Here's what's worse than those spoons though- polyester is often blended with other fibres, like cotton or rayon, rendering it near impossible to "recycle". So here's my top tip. If you must have poly, (perhaps you need that swishy jacket for water proofing reasons) then look into buying recycled (rPET) or second hand. There's a lot more of it available on the market now but use it sparingly. Polyester is not infinitely recyclable (and 9 times out of ten, isn’t recycled at all). If it does manage to get recycled, the quality will decrease each time it's melted down and it’ll inevitably end up in landfill all the same.
2. Wrapped in plastic ain't fantastic.
Imagine you were preparing an amazing meal for a dinner party. You went to the markets and bought all the freshest ingredients and even managed to get hold of those fancy spices. Imagine you put all the effort in to cooking that meal from scratch, following the recipe to a T, taking your time and allowing the flavours to develop. Now, imagine you served up this epic meal on a plastic plate with a plastic fork. It's just not right. And I'm going to go ahead and make the leap between that and buying a sustainable garment that is promptly wrapped in plastic and either given to you at the POS in bag form, or sent via an overly packaged online order. If you notice this from your fav retailer (online or offline) kindly ask them what's up, then choose to refuse.
3. Plastic - the glue that binds us.
Did you know the industry standard for sewing threads (those li’l stitches holding your clothes together) is 100% polyester? I betcha that gorgeous organic cotton shirt you bought last season is even sewn up with the stuff (unless of course, that gorgeous shirt was bough from us). Similar to the analogy above, the effort of sourcing organic materials is one great step, but sewing threads made from polyester don't decompose. They also make recycling incredibly hard (imagine unpicking all those threads....). The only way to change this is to care, become informed and ask questions. And once a majority of customers start asking what the threads are made of in their clothes, then I'll know my job is done.
There's some micro-plastic-free food for thought to consider next time the physical and digital shops call your name. Also, not buying stuff is good, too. If you really need clothes, consider these alternatives. Thrift! (BYO bag). Shop responsibly with local labels that are actively working on these issues and buy products that align with your values (BYO bag). For example, our Zero Waste Tee is literally made from the fabric off-cuts of another garment style (so it's also organic and completely compostable). But uhhhh, only buy it if you need it.
As always, hit me up with your thoughts x