The Real Price of That Shirt

You’re standing in a retail store and holding up a cotton shirt, thinking that it looks like it’s made from two yards of material, and that’s it.

Not so. What it’s really made from is more than 700 gallons of water to grow the cotton for that material, plus fertilizers, and chemical dyes. You can also factor in about 4.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions—the equivalent of driving a car for about 10 miles—expended in the manufacturing process. (The emissions from manufacturing a synthetic shirt are even higher.) No matter how much money you spend on the shirt, there’s also the environmental price.

To make things worse, if that shirt isn’t made well or you just grow tired of it, you might dispose of it fairly quickly and buy a replacement, starting the process all over again. And, unfortunately, you’re not the only one. A  CalRecycle study determined that 1.24 million tons of textiles (defined as items made of thread, yarn, fabric, or cloth) were disposed in California landfills in 2014, making textiles one of the most prevalent material types in the state’s disposed waste stream.

What can be done to stop this cycle?

Shop carefully. Check to ensure the article is made to last, and think twice about buying something that will likely be out of style next year. Consider clothing made by manufacturers who offer warranties. Some will even take their clothing back when it’s worn out!

CalRecycle has recently updated its  textiles recycling webpage with information on what to do with clothes you don’t want anymore and how to change your purchasing habits. Take a look—for the sake of your pocketbook and our environment!

shirts on hangars
— Heather Jones
Posted on Aug 13, 2018

Summary: You’re standing in a retail store and holding up a cotton shirt, thinking that it looks like it’s made from two yards of material, and that’s it. Not so. What it’s really made from is...