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How Fashion Affects Our Soils on World Soil Day 2024

How Fashion Affects Our Soils on World Soil Day 2024

The brown, reddish or blackish stuff under your feet is full of life.

Not only do we depend on our soils for our food, but they are also an invisible weapon against climate change.

This is because soil can trap and store carbon for many years to come. 

Healthy soils can help prevent flooding, they can also be used to develop medicines and just one gram of soil can contain as many as 10 billion organisms. 

The issue is, we’re damaging the very soils that we depend on. 

Deforestation is one of the biggest causes of soil degradation, along with intensive agriculture. 

But how does fashion play a part in soil degradation? Let’s get down and dirty and explore this in more detail and learn how we can minimise the impact of fashion on our soils. Mmm, humus (not that kind).

Fast Fashion and Soil: This is the Impact of your Cotton T-Shirt on Topsoil

Synthetic Chemicals Damage Soil Health

One of the biggest issues relating to the fast fashion industry is how its materials are grown in the first place.

Cotton is often grown with pesticides and other chemicals which are harmful to soil as well as the farmers growing the cotton. 

Synthetic fertilisers and pesticides can also run off the soil into water sources, which carries a risk to life much further afield.

Pesticides kill pest species but this also means it kills indiscriminately, affecting beneficial wildlife like worms. Whether it is worms, ants or even much smaller organisms, pesticides damage the soil’s ability to properly cycle nutrients. 

Coupled with intensive agriculture, where crops are not rotated but continuously grown, it means that the soil becomes less fertile and can lead to issues like soil degradation and desertification. 

These chemicals are really bad for human health too. The cotton farmers who work with the crops are particulary affected. Pesticide Action Network UK claims that as many as 500 people a day die from acute pesticide poisoning, with many more people suffering from long term health conditions, including cancer.

As fast fashion whips up a frenzy for new styles and seasons, it means that more and more strain is put on our soils. After all, your new top or trousers have to come from somewhere right?

Well, here’s the thing. We really don’t need to be buying a brand new pair of jeans every few months!

Read More: Keep it manageable with this capsule wardrobe

Let’s explore some other soil-friendly fashion solutions.

Sustainable Fashion to Protect our Soils 

Buy Organic

Certified organic cotton is grown using much more carefully. No synthetic chemicals are used to grow the crops such as synthetic fertilisers or pesticides.

This promotes soil biodiversity as it doesn’t wipe out all the weird and wonderful critters. The best organic agricultural methods will focus on the whole ecosystem, rather than just switching from synthetic to organic pesticides. 

Not all organic materials are the same, though. You need to look for the right logos. The Soil Association has it’s own logo. There is also the GOTS or the Global Organic Textile Standard. Only clothes that have a minimum of 70% organic fibres can be GOTS certified. 

Organic isn’t just about what happens in the soil, GOTS organic fabric needs to be manufactured in a socially and sustainably way too. 

Buy Second Hand

In truth, organic farming is still a resource-intensive process. You then have to think about how the raw material is transported, processed, shipped out to manufacturers to create the garments, which then  is transported to our stores in the UK. 

The most soil-friendly fashion is to buy nothing new. We already have so unworn clothing on this planet that it is getting shoved back into our soils to decompose. What a waste of time, energy and emissions. 

Click here to read ten great reasons to buy preloved clothes.

Use Deadstock Fabrics

Just as we have too many clothes piling up around the planet, the same can be said for deadstock fabrics. These could be offcuts or just second hand pieces of fabric that are otherwise destined to go to waste. 

If you can sew then it's a great way of making a unique garment that fits exactly how you like it. Otherwise, there are lots of fantastic upcyclers out there that turn waste materials into exciting new designs. Etsy is usually a good place to find these kinds of items. Or visit your local craft market.

Rent Garments

We could also use rental services for higher-end occasionwear that might otherwise sit in our wardrobe for the majority of the year. You may have to pay a premium but it saves clogging up your closet.

Clothes Swaps

This is the ultimate form of thrifting. Clothes swapping usually means you’re keeping your fashion habits super local, meeting with friends or family to give away or exchange a garment. There are now some really cool apps that let you do it online, too which makes it super convenient. Other online platforms offer a kind of bartering system where you send in unwanted clothes for tokens that can be redeemed against the value of those clothes. 

Less Is More

Whatever you decide to do, and even if wearing preloved clothing is offputting to you, you can simply make the most of what you already have, minimising future purchases and buying from sustainable, organic brands only when absolutely necessary. 

It might not be as easy as just ‘buying less’ which is why you might like to read one of articles on the many ways to organise your wardrobe.

Read More: Feel good about your fashion with a wellbeing wardrobe.

Search for Second Hand Fashion using Ecosia

Are you using a planet-friendly search engine yet? We like Ecosia because it uses the profits it makes to plant trees. So far Ecosia has planted around 163 million trees. Trees are vital for soil health. They can fix nitrogen from the air into the soil, helping to improve soil fertility along with its annual shedding of leaves. 

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