Fashion with a Conscience

While wristbands have become a fashionable way to show our geopolitics we often forget that we can make an even bigger impact on poverty and the environment through the clothes we choose. Wearing eco fashion is one way we all can make a real difference. Organic cotton is one of the best examples of how each one of us can influence third world economies by encouraging fairer trade while helping preserve the environment.

A few weeks ago G8 leaders failed to set a date to end their agricultural export subsidies. While Western consumers enjoy low price clothing, they often forget that it hardly reflects the true cost of fashion. Conventional cotton is highly subsidised in countries such as the US and China. According to Oxfam, the US pays three times more in subsidies to its 25,000 cotton farmers than its budget for aid to Africa’s 500 million people. These subsidies make it impossible for third world countries to compete on international markets resulting in lower export earnings and even costing some countries more than they receive in debt relief.

Beyond economics, conventional cotton production has also many negative environmental impacts. While it is often described as the “Natural Fibre”, cotton requires more pesticides and insecticides than any other crops. According to PAN UK (Pesticide Action Network) cotton accounts for 10% of all pesticides and 22.5% of insecticides applied in agriculture. It takes 1/3 of a pound of pesticides to produce a single tee shirt. The same pesticides and insecticides that are linked to cancer are being sprayed onto field affecting farmers, health as well as the wildlife and the environment.

The “Make Poverty History” campaign has had tremendous success in raising the awareness of many issues facing the developing world. Yet fashion produced in environmentally friendly and under fair-trade conditions still represents only a tiny fraction of the global textile market. However, with exciting new labels and designers, eco-fashion has developed a stylish and contemporary look in keeping with our modern lifestyles.