The Ripple Effect
The Ripple Effect
Small choice, Big imPACT
When it comes to the big global change, what impact can one person really have? Isn’t it just a drop in the bucket? While at face value that might be true, that one drop can have a massive ripple effect.
Let’s trace the impact of a simple choice to change your underwear from non-organic cotton to organic:
Ripple #1. Water Savings
It takes 65 pounds of raw cotton to make a pair of underwear and cotton is one of the thirstiest crops on the planet. To add to the water demand, when synthetic fertilizers are used to grow cotton, it requires additional water to dilute the potency of the fertilizers -- making growing non-organic cotton even more water intensive. Switching to organic cotton underwear alone can save 10-15 gallons of water per pair. Changing out an entire wardrobe can save 1000s of gallons per person.
Ripple #2. Human Rights
The global apparel market is $1.34 trillion annually and the vast majority of clothes are still made by human beings. There is a rising movement to use “Fair-Trade Certified” factories where working conditions are regulated and workers are given premiums ($) on top of their base wages. The workers use this money for projects that improve their lives -- everything from building local canteens that increase their access to affordable food to investing in bikes as a means to get to their jobs to earn a living. While changing your underwear can seem trivial, it can dramatically change the standard of living for a talented sewer or farmer across the globe.
Ripple #3. Soil Conversation
The chemicals used to grow non-organic products not only get incorporated into the garment but into the soil. The runoff often heads straight into local water supplies. Access to clean water is a global concern and if the average human needs a half a gallon of water a day, then a pair of underwear can equate to the drinking water of an entire family for a week.
Ripple #4.Avoiding Plastic in our Food
Polyester is the most popular fabric used for fashion. But when polyester garments are washed in domestic washing machines, they shed microfibers that add to the increasing levels of plastic in our oceans. These microfibers are minute and can easily pass through sewage and wastewater treatment plants into our waterways, but because they do not biodegrade, they represent a serious threat to aquatic life. Small creatures such as plankton eat the microfibers, which then make their way up the food chain to fish and shellfish eaten by humans.
Ripple #5. Recycling & Reuse
Americans recycle or donate only 15 percent of their used clothing, and the rest—about 10.5 million tons a year—goes into landfills, giving textiles one of the poorest recycling rates of any reusable material. While never buying new clothes isn’t always an option, repurposing them by simply donating them can be. Your t-shirt not only helps someone in need, it also reduces the pressure on landfills. Some companies, like Pact Organic, have programs to make donating easier. When you purchase clothes from Pact you can fill the box with used clothes and Pact will send it to charities in need free of charge.
Ripple #6. Empowering Companies on
Companies are also an agent for change; they are able to aggregate the preferences of consumers to force change on industries in a larger way. Socially and environmentally-friendly companies use consumer demand to not only change their primary industry but also to have an effect on broader industries you probably don’t think of when you are buying a t-shirt. For example, Pact Organic hosts their website off of Amazon servers out of Portland, Oregon, that are run totally on solar energy. They bank with New Resource Bank who only lends to socially-conscious business and a credit card processor who donates a percentage of their fees to 501c3s. While your apparel choices has marked direct impacts on the apparel industry, it has ripple effects through many other seemingly-unrelated industries.
So while changing your underwear seems like a menial thing, it can dramatically change the environment, individual peoples’ lives, and industries in a way you couldn’t imagine. Change your underwear, change the world.