Most people don't usually think of food when they look into their closet or dresser drawer. We don't consume fashion in the same way. Or do we? 65% of a conventional cotton plant ends up in our food chain. What we wear matters, far beyond our skin, our largest and most absorptive organ. Here are 7 ways fashion fibers are connected to food:
1 Conventional cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, accounting for approximately 16% of global pesticide use. That said, cotton, hemp and flax are all plants that are harvested for both fiber and food. Cottonseed oil is a common ingredient in snack foods and the cellulose is used as a thickening agent. Hemp and flax seed can be consumed on their own, or processed to make milk, oil, or protein powders and cheese.
2 Conventional cotton byproducts, like seeds, hulls, and stems, are used in animal agriculture as feed. Harmful pesticide residues infiltrate the meat and dairy industries in this way.
3 Fiber farmers are not ONLY fiber farmers. Most farmers grow other rotational crops. That means that whatever chemical inputs are applied to grow fiber will also impact the soil in which other crops are grown.
4 Food waste can be used to make fiber. From pineapples to bananas to sugar cane, plant matter that's left after the crop is harvested can be used to create fashion fibers.
5 Leather is a byproduct of the meat industry. Leather tanning is perhaps the most toxic process in all of fashion. When we choose to cut back our meat intake, we don't just save the lives of animals. Animal agriculture is up there as one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters. Lowering our meat intake also reduces the need to get rid of agricultural byproducts like animal skins. (Not to mention it's better for your health). Eating less meat is a win-win-win.
6 Chemical runoff from farming pollutes freshwater sources and fish habitats, as well as drinking water supplies. What's more, runoff can reach and impact other agricultural soil.
7 Pesticides used to grow fiber also threaten the global population of pollinators necessary for plant agriculture.
If you didn't know, now you know! Everything is interconnected. The more we understand and awaken our consciousness, the more our individual impact can take shape. By choosing to wear organic fibers from plants, we can literally clean up our water supply, rebuild soil, regenerate ecosystems, and improve the heath and wellbeing of our global community.
To learn more about the food and fiber connection, check out our founder, Marci Zaroff, in conversation with Diana Martin from the Rodale Institute in this recent webinar.