The third chapter of Sustainable Fashion and Textiles goes over the garment’s environmental effects once it is in the hands of the consumer, through its use cycles and laundering techniques. The text mentions that through the life cycle of clothing, workwear ,and household textiles, use constitutes the largest environmental impact. In such, it is recognized that to lessen the environmental impact of the textile industry, it is important to address the issue of use in all sectors: from the design stage, to the consumer stage, to the industries that coexist with the textile industry (think washing machines, detergent, dry cleaners, etc). The first focus that this chapter addresses is improving the quality of home laundering systems. Sanyo, an electronic company, has developed a laundry machine that uses a dramatically smaller amount of electricity in comparison to conventional machines, though its water consumption is substantially higher (82). I am curious as to if Sanyo has considered a way to reclaim the waste water produced by that machine, purifying it and using the reclaimed water in the next cleaning cycle; this would dramatically lessen the effect of water consumption, while making the machine all the more environmentally friendly.
The text continues on to discuss the impact that specific types of garments have in terms of laundering techniques – for example, cottons should be washed at warmer temperatures than synthetics. While this brings to the forefront the issues of what type of fiber is best, it also stresses the importance in the consumer’s ability to accurately sort laundry: laundry should be sorted according the fiber, not according to color, for the benefit of the environment. Further, Fletcher discusses concepts of modular design, in which the soiled part of a garment is easily removed so as to wash only the dirty portion of the garment, not the entire thing. Concepts of antimicrobial fabrics are also discussed, namely the use of silver in medical textiles. This practice has been looked at with great caution, and a fear that bacteria will morph and become resistant. I am curious as to what would happen if we let bacteria win this race (though, perhaps, in a controlled environment). Our practices should emulate nature, not deplete them, so what if we learned from bacteria’s victory in an attempt to improve our own practices?
The chapter ends discussing the consumer’s practices of laundering. Garments are being developed with intentions to never be laundered – from the 5 Ways Project’s No Wash top, which is designed to repel dirt as well as to take pride in the fact that the garment requires no laundering, to Lauren Montgomery Devenney’s dress, dyed with red wine splattered all over it in a design that embraces spills and stains. There are also designs currently on the drawing table for disposable garments, which are never to be washed. My only concern with such products is the understanding that the consumer would need to carry regarding them, as well as the biodegradability of the garments. Though the laundering process of garments does carry a substantial amount of the textile’s negative effects to the environments, would throwing garments in a landfill be that much of an improvement?
Source: Fletcher, Kate. Sustainable Fashion and Textiles. London: Earthscan, 2008.