To produce a kilo of cotton

Fashion is fun. Every season there are masses of new goods. The fast-moving business often has neither a sustainable character, nor are colors or materials compatible with health. The increase in allergies and intolerances, or even stresses on the environment in many countries, the often socially intolerable manufacturing conditions could give pause for thought.

Fashion is fun. Choosing and buying fashionable clothes, shoes or accessories is influenced by personal taste, preferences and is often also an expression or underlining of individuality. Probably at no time was fashion as colorful and varied in colors, fabrics and extravagant materials as it is today. The chemical industry, like the fashion industry, comes up with something new every season to satisfy the high expectations of modern customers. Iron-free shirts, always seat-fair pants, absolutely color-fast materials, crease-free or extra cuddly-soft materials are everyday life long. What many consumers are not aware of: in order to obtain certain fiber structures, for example, man-made fibers have to be coated with synthetic resins.

Sustainable? In the past, no one would have bought broken pants

Or: Textiles (this also applies to shoes or accessories) that are subjected to so-called finishing processes require a wide variety of chemical additives, possibly even at numerous different points in the production process. These treatments not only have a monetary cost, but can also have a health cost: This is because synthetic fibers of various origins can cause irritation, eczema and allergies – despite all the medical testing beforehand (usually on animals). Most commercially used dyes do not have a good reputation either. They often do not consist of only one color, but of a mix of colors, such as black, which consists of blue, orange and brown. Unfortunately, most industrially produced paints are harmful to health or the environment. They can be for example poisonous, fruit-damaging, carcinogenic or not biodegradable.

Washing instructions provide information about pollutant levels

And so the joy of buying a chic, trendy piece of clothing can be short-lived. Perhaps not during the fitting, but perhaps during the first wearing, an unpleasant feeling on the skin, tingling or itching can ensure that it quickly disappears into the depths of the closet. The causes of skin irritation can be manifold: textile auxiliaries and dyes, for example, which are also used with man-made fibers in particular, are not particularly firmly bonded to the fibers. They dissolve easily and, in the case of clothing that lies directly on the skin, enter the organism directly via the skin. The can then react with allergic contact eczema. These do not have to appear immediately, but may manifest 24-72 hours later as a rash with redness, swelling, blistering. Problematic: To an allergenic reaction to z. B. a color or a metal (nickel or lead fasteners), further allergenic reactions to other materials may follow, creating a kind of domino effect and, in the worst case, even a "floor change" from, for example, a skin allergy to allergic asthma may follow. Therefore, such contact eczema should not be trivialized. Dermatologists use allergy tests to determine the most common allergens. These must then be avoided as far as possible in the future.

Not every skin itch has to reveal an allergic reaction. Sometimes also air-impermeable garments cause increased sweating and skin irritation. Rough fibers or coarse wool can also cause skin itching simply through mechanical irritation.

Mass-produced goods every season

People who suffer from neurodermatitis and whose skin's barrier and protective function is already disturbed should definitely avoid clothing with too many dyes and additives. Older people or patients who have to take cortisone on a permanent basis can also react more sensitively to harmful substances of any kind due to thinning skin. Of course, the skin of infants, babies and toddlers is particularly worthy of protection. Their immune system is not yet fully matured or they are not yet able to absorb. built. their skin absorbs pollutants particularly well and easily. A conscious, resp. Responsible clothing purchasing for the little ones can set the course for their further, allergy-free life.

References to questionable properties:
* stain-resistant * antimicrobial * antistatic * anti-smell * flame retardant * foot fungus retardant * fungus free * machine washable superwash * keeps its shape * is non-iron * does not felt * wash& wear * wash before first wear * wrinkle-resistant * highly finished * particularly easy to care for * fade out * wash only with the same colors

Being especially mindful with babies

Baby clothes pass on Because infants, babies and toddlers grow quickly and clothing is often disproportionately expensive, baby clothes that have become too small are often given to expectant mothers. This is exactly the right approach: the laundry is in fact now washed so often that it contains much fewer harmful substances. Thus, adopting such clothing packages should not be associated with shame ("I can't afford anything else …"), but exclusively with the good feeling of doing the best for the little ones in terms of clothing pollutant exposure. In addition, this expresses a responsible use of the world's resources.

Buying baby underwear

* make sure that the laundry is not heavily dyed

* the indication "pure cotton" is not a sign of quality. It can nevertheless many z. B. Insecticides contained in the fabric. Therefore: Always wash baby clothes with direct skin contact first

* for woolen clothing, the label "pure new wool" ensures that wool from sheep has been used. However, sheepskins are also treated with insecticides. Therefore: With uncertainties rather wash before.

Bargains: Without any sustainability

But not only the health aspects of healthy clothing are relevant. Closely linked to cheap or affordable fashion is often the ruthless exploitation of the environment, the high consumption of resources such as energy and water, and also inhumane, unhealthy working and production conditions, especially in third-world countries. Environmentally conscious, socially committed consumers are therefore prepared to pay more for clothing that is free of harmful substances, produced in an environmentally friendly manner and traded fairly. In the last 15 years, international, national or even regional associations have tried to develop quality labels that are supposed to represent sustainability in different ways. The labels developed so far, however, lack unified guidelines or standards, which can cause confusion among consumers. At present, however, there are no other approaches.

* The International Association of the Natural Textile Industry (IVN) has been using the IVN-Best label since 2000. It applies only to natural fibers, which must be 100% organically produced, the use of chemicals is particularly strictly regulated. Living wages are guaranteed during cultivation and processing.

* The GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) from the International Working Group on Global Organic Textile was introduced in 2006. It concerns only natural fiber textiles. The seal refers to the entire production chain, includes social standards and payment of minimum wages.

* There are also quality seals for leather processing (z.B. IVN natural leather). Because incredible amounts of chemicals have to be used to tan leather. Polluted wastewater is produced and workers are exposed to high health risks throughout the production process.


Cotton in fruit capsule

Natural fabrics are worn next to the skin because they are comfortable to wear and z. B. Also absorbs sweat well. Unfortunately, the tropical plant needs a lot of water to form its seed hairs, which are then used to produce cotton fiber. To produce one kilo of cotton, up to 17.000 liters of water are needed (so-called virtual water: for the production of a product). In particularly hot regions even 29.000 liters – that is an ecological disaster. Especially in regions of the Third World where water is scarce anyway, artificial cotton irrigation leads to salinization of the soil, depletion of water reserves, erosion or poisoning of the groundwater (e.g. B. through the use of pesticides). Water distribution has long since become a political ie worldwide, especially in arid regions. Work is currently underway on methods of making cotton z. B. can get by with less water. But consumers can also do something: Older cotton shirts do not have to be thrown away, but can be worn again (advantage: no more harmful substances) or reworked. A rethink can also take place when it comes to jeans: To produce the ever-popular pants, an additional 8.000 liters are needed. Water consumption is increased even further if z. B. embellishments such as "stonewashed" can be added. Which means nothing else, that workers with high-prere jets work on the pants, endangering their health. Whether such fashion trends always have to be followed is a matter for consumers to decide. Or they can also buy products from eco-manufacturers (z.B. hessnatur, Kuyichi, and Nudie Jeans), which use z. B. In the case of jeans, make sure that less fertilizer or pesticides are used in cotton production or that water consumption is also significantly reduced.

The exhibition "Fast Fashion. Hamburg Museum of Art. Trade from 20 March to 25. October 2015. The exhibition is well worth seeing, as it provides some very depressing insights "behind the scenes of glamorous fashion". Photos of workers and seamstresses from the poorest regions of the world show the conditions under which people produce our fast-moving fashion, mostly for starvation wages. Also on z.B. the environmental damage is shown, which the cultivation of the cotton or dyeing factories of the textiles, on a long-term basis cause or already at present irreparable damage in many parts of the earth caused. Not only to the scandalous, health-damaging and inhuman consequences is pointed out, but also to the consequences, the global interlacing of the manufacturing processes, with which it always goes only around if possible around most economical productions and profit maximization. It is a stimulating exhibition also to review and rethink one's own consumption behavior and perhaps even to bring about changes in behavior. The question of sustainability is compelling and how one's own buying behavior can bring about global change.

Book tips

* Engelhardt, Andreas: Black book cotton: What we really wear on our skin. Deuticke in Paul Zsolay Publishing House Vienna, 2012.

* Piegsa, Edith: Green Fashion. Environmental sustainability in the apparel industry. Diplomica Publishing House, Hamburg, 2 010.

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