Monday, February 25, 2013

Explaining - Why I wasn't excited that Helen Hunt was in H&M

Last night was the Oscars right?  I don't know- I drove home from the mountains and fell asleep.  But I have several friends who watch and who comment online.

One said:
LOVE that helen hunt is wearing a "green" dress by H&M!!!! she rocks!
I wrote back: No no no - read Cline's book - H&M is evil!

And as my recent blog posts will show - "fast-fashion" and "disposable clothes" are a topic on my mind.  And H&M is frequently implemented in this hysteria. Now, in researching Helen Hunt's dress I see that H&M is launching a "global garment recycling program."

However I am highly skeptical   There is no reconciliation between fast-fashion and sustainability.  H&M is offering to take those garments so they do not end up in the trash.  Awesome.  But where are they going?  Are they being recycled? Are they being recycled in an ethical manner?  Most clothes are made in countries that cannot or will not enforce good environmental practice in the making of the clothes, will they then enforce good environmental practice in the recycling of the clothes?

So to quote someone besides Cline, what happens to all that polyester and nylon and dye?

What happens to the pieces that don’t make the cut? Most of them end up in landfills—only about 15 percent of discarded clothing is recycled or reused, whether by individual or industry. Globally, we trash roughly 2 billion pounds of clothing and textiles a year. Piled onto a football field, the waste would stretch more than two miles high. The textile industry has hooked us so completely on the accelerated fashion cycle that we feel we find ourselves with more and more stuff and few options for ethically discarding it. via Ethical Style

And knowing that there is "Business" in your old clothes:

The U.N. estimates that the global used clothing trade generates about $1 billion annually. Rag cutters pay about 8 cents a pound for (preferably white) T-shirts with enough clean surface area to cut a 12-by-12 inch square. Remaining tattered or excessively printed clothing becomes what is called “shoddy” in a shredding process—companies pay the processors between 2 and 4 cents a pound for these goods that wind up in carpet pads, mattresses, or as insulation. But your used clothing is most valuable if it is fit to be reworn. Pricing varies, but select closet rejects can be bought for anywhere from 24 to 80 cents a pound. Processors sell them in bales from 500 to 1,000 pounds.
If your clothing is deemed ready to wear again, it’s categorized into one of 300 different groups to figure out where it’s most likely to find a new home somewhere around the world. Collectible items like vintage denim and Disney T-shirts are typically sold to Japan. Winter coats and other heavy winter items are shipped to Eastern Europe or South America. But the bulk—up to 80 percent—of reusable clothing winds up on ships to Africa. Middlemen there buy heaps of clothing from U.S. processors, then resell them to local market stall owners or straight to the costumer in their own retail outlets. In Africa, demand is high for these goods—in 2007, second-hand clothing placed in the top 10 import categories for 15 African countries. In Namibia and Uganda, our secondhand clothing becomes sought-after fashion apparel once it reaches the market. A well-fitting T-shirt can go for $1.20, and a durable coat can cost well over $4, even if the Goodwill tag in the back reads just $1. via Ethical Style
Is H&M actually recycling them or selling them and simply stealing the business from the rag-pickers?
Regarding clothing dye: this was written in January of this year (2013):

The Qiantang River is the most important river in China’s eastern Zhejiang province, one of the country’s most developed regions. On its banks, textiles plants work to supply fashion labels around the world. But they are polluting the environment in the process. A Greenpeace report published in October revealed that two industrial zones in the cities of Hangzhou and Shaoxing have long been dumping toxic waste into the Qiantang. via China Dialogue

For me it comes down to this.  Americans love a "feel good moment" but we refuse to take personal responsibility   Don't buy clothes that are made cheaply.  Don't buy clothes that are killing your world, then dump them in a matter of weeks or even months and go buy more.  Put on your big girl pants and buy something that will work for the next 10 years.  And don't even get me started on the Helen Hunt's lost opportunity to show case the work of an American designer/artist.
Walk through any crowded city anywhere in the world and you’ll see pink: this pleasing shade of pale red is the predominant hue for girl’s and women’s clothing. What’s not so pleasing (and less well-known) is that cute clothing gets its tint from harsh chemical dyes that are expensive to filter from waste water at textile plants. Check the label on your pink blouse – you can be fairly sure that where it’s made, a pink river runs through it.

I invite your comments.

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