Top | Sift

Crops and clothing

(article, Culinate staff)

It's easy to forget that one of the major crops subsidized by the Farm Bill is a crop you wear, not eat: cotton. Sometimes cotton makes it into the news as a crop; witness the recent efforts by the House of Representatives to reform cotton subsidies, partly via ending a $147 million annual payout to Brazil.

More often, though, cotton and its effects on the planet turn up on TV via the garment industry. The recent disastrous factory collapse in Bangladesh is the latest flare of awareness of the negative side to '"fast

It's not just exploited workers in Third World countries who are affected by the global garment industry; as Elizabeth Cline, the author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, has pointed out, cheap clothing affects First World consumers, too: "I think it is similar to the food movement in that people in this country don’t have a lot of money yet they’re obese. It’s so similar to fashion. We are drowning in cheap clothes." 

While it's true that the Slow Food movement has spun off a Slow Fashion movement, encouraging consumers to avoid new, cheap, mass-produced clothing in favor of recycled, fair-trade, and handmade garments, it can be harder to rationalize a $200 pair of bespoke organic jeans than a $3 cup of pour-over fair-trade coffee.

In the meantime, get educated about the environmental impacts of various clothing materials, including the possible effects of nanotechnology in fabrics. More clothing manufacturers are starting to promote their own versions of fair-trade labeling. And consumers are talking — and arguing — about what they can do from their end.