Making Clothes Less Terrible for the Planet | Hot Mess 🌎

Clothing is more than just the material we
put on our backs – it keeps us warm, makes a statement about our personality and can
be a status symbol. Clothing is something we have to think about
every day, but we don’t always think about how our clothes impact the planet. From growing or making textiles, to sewing
and transporting garments across the world, clothing production overall releases more
than a billion tons of carbon dioxide every year – contributing around 5% of global
greenhouse gas emissions. That’s about as much as the aviation industry
or roughly all of Russia’s emissions. That’s bad – but, there are ways to be fashionable
and climate friendly at the same time. The ways we make clothes and how quickly we
throw them away ends up having a massive impact on our planet’s climate. Take, synthetic materials, for example, because,
well, we’re essentially making plastic. Polyester – the most commonly used clothing
fabric – is made by combining a petroleum by-product with an alcohol and an acid at
high temperatures. Basically, cooking some fossil fuels with
some more fossil fuels. In 2015, polyester production created as many
greenhouse gases as 185 coal-fired power plants. But other materials also have a big impact
on the environment. Leather means methane emissions from cows. Rayon means cutting down trees. And, growing cotton uses a ton of water. We also burn a lot of fossil fuels moving
clothes around the world, from where they’re woven to where they’re dyed to where they’re
sewn together to the person who eventually wears them. Or, doesn’t wear them. In the US, 66 pounds of clothes per person
get tossed in a landfill each year, and a bunch of that happens before anyone buys them. So, what can be done to make fashion more
climate friendly? Here’s the thing, I know a lot about the
fashion industry’s impact, but I don’t really know how to make something that is
sustainable and also fashionable. But I know someone who does – Justine Leconte
– let’s go talk to her. I sell and design women’s wear that is sourced
and made exclusively in Europe. This way, I make sure that the workers are
paid properly, that the fabrics are super high quality, and I also avoid all the transportation
and the pollution from outsourcing overseas. Justine and fashion designers and brands like
hers are trying to redefine what it means to be a successful clothing business – not
just one based on churning out mountains of new clothes year round but one that considers
people and the planet. The ethical labor aspect is important, too. Environmental friendly shipping is important,
too.There are so many factors. It’s not just, like, getting organic cotton,
it’s also paying the person right, saving on labor, not throwing away the rest of the
inventory and so on and so on. Sustainable and ethical clothing is not new. For most of human history having a closet
full of clothing wasn’t really a thing. Before the 18th century, textiles were woven,
cut, and sewn by hand – an incredibly slow and expensive process. Clothes were a major purchase, and people
didn’t buy that many of them. Even well into the twentieth century, long
after we invented machines that could weave and stitch fabrics, the average person was
still spending between 13 and 15 percent of their yearly budget on clothing. But today we spend just 3.5 percent. So why’d we start spending so much less
on our clothes? In the 1960s clothing started costing less
thanks to more advanced manufacturing technologies and synthetic materials. Also, around this time, outsourcing clothing
production to countries and regions with lower labor costs became popular. Since then, clothes have just kept getting
cheaper. You can buy a pair of jeans from H&M for 10
dollars. 10 Dollars! I’ve had sandwiches more expensive than
that. And all these cheap clothes have led to us
making and buying more clothes than ever before. In 2014 we made more than 100 billion new
clothes which is enough to give every single person on the planet 14 new pieces of clothing. Today, we’re buying, on average 60 percent
more clothing than we did 20 years ago, but we’re only wearing it for half as long. As a consumer if you decide to buy from a
fast fashion label, a cheap garment, it seems like a good deal. But, A – It won’t look good for long and B –
The person who made it, who sewed it somewhere far away overseas is not getting paid or treated
properly. So you can change that by consciously deciding
to purchase style instead of trends. And by only choosing pieces that go with what
you already have in your closet. It’s the concept of capsule wardrobe. You buy less pieces, but they’re more combinable
and so you get more wear out of each garment. So it’s about prioritizing quality before
quantity. So what we need is more options – more brands
that are in between that eco-hippy side and that mass market super cheap production side. Because the demand is there. Take Spanish company Ecoalf, they make swimming
trunks from recycled fishing nets, backpacks from coffee grounds and flip flops from old
tires. I hate flip flops, but it’s still cool. Yea, they’re a smaller business than the
Zaras and Forever 21s of the world, but they’re making their mark on the fashion scene by
partnering with big players. And excitingly, many manufacturers have also
gotten on board the sustainability train. Knitted sneakers like the Nike Flyknit and
Adidas Ultraboost are lighter and use fewer materials than the average sneaker – a lighter
shoe is easier and cheaper to transport, requiring less fossil fuels to get from point A to B.
And fewer materials in the production process means less waste. Plus, much of Nike’s Flyknit line is made
of recycled plastic rather than directly from petroleum. Of course, looking good and what’s fashionable
is all relative but it doesn’t have to mean cycling through dozens of items every season. It also doesn’t mean wearing a potato sack. There are lots of stylish and sustainable
options out there. If you buy fabric that is sustainable or high
quality, it’s not necessarily more expensive. It’s a question of choice and of the options
you get. So far, sustainable fabrics tend to be a bit
more rough, they’re – not feel as good on the skin, or you just have less colors. It’s not as stable when you wash it. So there are limitations to it. So the question is – how much skin feeling
you want, how much sustainability do you want? Ideally you are somewhere in the middle. Ideally, you get both. None of these solutions are perfect. Sustainable clothing still has some impact
on the planet, and a lot of it is really expensive. But the trends are moving in the right direction. The thing is, people are more and more aware
of what’s going on in the fashion industry and they are more informed to make better
purchase decisions. So the thing is, changing. It’s evolving – slowly but surely. And the demand for ethical and sustainable
clothing is growing and there is space for many many more brands. It’s pretty inspiring stuff! And as more and more people and companies
start considering how clothes are made, the more fashionable this whole idea will become. Thanks for watching! If you liked what you watched, consider subscribing. Click that little bell icon to get notified
when we have a new video. You can also check out our Patreon page where
you can help us not only make more videos but also make them more carbon neutral. Details and links are in the description below.


  1. I think it's also important to mention that people can take their clothes to resale shops instead of throwing them away! And shopping at second hand stores is always a more sustainable option instead of buying new as well 😊

  2. Sounds more of impact of women demanding more variety and turnover of clothes. You can't tell me that the MAJORITY of men have the same impact.

  3. What to ask for when you're in a clothing store; " Do you sell any brands that are made under fair trade and environmentally ethical practices?" ( you can also do the same when picking up groceries/etc)

    Even if you KNOW the service is going to apologize and say something to the equivalent to "no, sorry we don't know." The presence of increasing customer demand for fair wage and ethical clothing products will dramatically increase, if it's a part of the daily conversation.

    So please, instead of just shrugging and saying 'we're fucked', do the bare minimum and make it a part of the conversation.

  4. Do you guys have a video covering how science knows climate change is a thing, and also how we know its specifically humans causing it? And if not could you make one? I need to know. People are denying climate change.

  5. You guys should also check out Daria Andronescu's channel. She has a lot of resources on more sustainable and ethical fashion, including guides to sustainable&ethical international brands

  6. If you feel the fabric of new clothing you can tell how thin it is and how likely it is to tear. It is tough finding clothes meant to last.

  7. Thanks to the HOT MESS team for having me! It was a pleasure – this is one very important topic so thank you for covering it on your channel!

  8. Ecosia plants trees from the clothes they sell:
    And oh yeah, ecosia is also a search engine that plant trees:

  9. It might be easy for you to get 10$ jeans but the larger you are the more money it costs my jeans are like 20$-30$

  10. What about the Tencel fibre? It's essentially made from wood. So no water consumption, or pesticides like in the cotton industry. As far as I understood it, what Miss Leconte is doing is using existing fibres in a special way (less transportation and so on) while the fibre itself stays more or less the same. I think sustainable clothing can't go without a sustainable fibre

  11. Ok, this episode confused the crap out of me. It is implied that people are throwing out their clothes and getting brand new clothes literally all the time like everyday or something because they are old or because of percieved obsolescence. This doesn't happen at all with me. I have pairs of jeans and t-shirts and such that are like 10 years old or older and I still wear them today because I take good care of my clothes and I love the styles but, like other people in the comment section have stated, I will wear my clothes until they fall apart. The only time I have ever thrown away clothes was when they were so worn out that I couldn't wear them anymore. (For example, when your socks get worn out to the point that they get huge holes in them that can't be repaired or break completely.) I have never just thrown out clothes either. I will usually take them to a charity or thrift store and give them to them. I don't understand what's wrong with people and their ideas about clothing. Anyone want ot add anything? It'd be appreciated.

  12. Sustainable clothing is a good solution, but its expensive. It will only be feasible in developed countries where the income is relatively high.
    Things are different in developing 3rd world countries where cheap clothing is a necessity.

  13. There is a popular and important movement going on called the Buy Nothing project. As far as I know it mostly goes on through Facebook groups, and is usually location-restricted so that members are local. Clothing is one of the many things that members freely give away or at least lend all the time on there. Most of the issues with clothing apply to many other items as well. I just did a quick scroll through on my local Buy Nothing page, and the top few offerings are a box of toys plus a box children's books, a pressure cooker, a pair of shoes, a bunch of makeup used once, two bales of hay, a big box of mac and cheese cups that the giver's grandchild didn't like when he visited, and an office desk. I've personally given away tons of clothing and toys, books, video games, furniture, bedding, decorations, etc. I've received a set of 4 counter-height stools, a king size headboard, a small desk I turned into a vanity for my wife, a bookshelf, a board game, and a few books.

    I lent out some of my (business-casual) work clothing to a family who urgently needed replacement clothing for some color-coordinated family pictures scheduled that evening. My wife gave away a dress to someone who needed one for a work party. A single mother of four a few miles away who just wanted something to put under her Xmas tree for her kids received over 100 comments and dozens of offered items. That kicked off a storm of giving right around the holidays. One guy offers his services as a handyman, and has fixed a dishwasher, moved furniture, etc.

    Seriously, if you want to reduce your carbon footprint, that of those around you, and have a little faith in humanity restored, go look for one of these groups, or maybe even start one if it doesn't yet exist in your area!

  14. how to make them less terrible?
    Step 1) Make them stronger.
    step 2) Don't buy clothes every years.
    step 3) repair clothes instead of buying new.

  15. Roughly 95% of my clothes have the colors greenish, brownish, grayish and such colors. I literally look the same every day because I'm to lazy to figure out what could fit with what else. So everything fits with everything.
    Also I wear them until they are get holes than I still use them for gardening until they are completely wrecked. My mom has to force me to buy new clothes because I hate buying clothes.

  16. 2:20 – That's just a carbon tax, which I totally support, but stop pretending like it's anything else. If you pay your employees more, buy local fabric, and avoid shipping, all the just increases the price which you could do with a tax.

  17. 4:19 – I do love that you are so worried about overseas workers as you promote taking away their jobs. This might come as surprise to many people but those people making 5 cents a day to work in a sweatshop are there by choice. That's the best job they can get. If you close down the sweatshops, they lose their jobs, the BEST paying job they can get. It may seem like they are being exploited, and in most cases they are, but they are being paid which is something they will lose if you take away their job.

  18. And… which materials are the least problematic for the climate now? Just whatever materials last the longest, or is e.g. polyester by a factor n better than leather?

  19. Another thing that encourages us to buy too many clothes is having to play "dress up" for work. I was a school teacher in the early 90s and had a whole set of nice school clothes that I would never wear outside of work. How does wearing nice clothes make you a better teacher (or anything else, for that matter)?

  20. Too much diversity, too many people, utimate roots of most climate issues…and please, when you want to wear something, make sure it lasts decades, and get closer to a definitve style from the beginning. Also dont get fat/skinny or change weight if yours already healthy.

  21. well, if there are only more people like me……getting new pants only when previous two peaces i tear up…same for every other peace of cloths…..

    yeey im not only one who hates flip flops 😀 😀

  22. shipping by sea in large container ship is pretty carbon efficient: the problem is always the last leg via truck and lorry. Carbon footprint and energy consumption to move a container of clothes from Mumbai to Rotterdam are less then to move it by truck from Rotterdam to Milan. So is not important where you produce your clothes but is important that they are moved with trains (electric if possible) on land and on efficient container ship on sea.

    You can test some scenarios with this calculator

  23. It's important to mention microplastic pollution when discussing polyester. It's throughout the food chain & water supply. The teeny bits of plastic that come off of clothing during washing can be caught by a guppy friend bag or Cora ball.

  24. I've spent the past year getting rid of hand-me-downs from my older sisters and trying to figure out what my style is by what I am choosing to keep. I can't wait to add new pieces of clothing into my closet though that I actually pick out and choose. I'll be sure to pick from a sustainable brand once I actually do pick something out though.

  25. How does leather mean emissions if leather is just a extra byproduct of meat industry.

    And guess those 10$ sandwitches were avocado toast?

  26. Meanwhile in some countries people started adapting the current not-so-eco-friendly and expensive fashion style as trend and/or even necessity when country whose's trend they tried to follow is trying to be more eco-friendly.

  27. Is there a survey that has asked people how important clothing fashion is to people? Because I’ll just like plain clothing that are good for the environment. I don’t know about others.

  28. I love this! People need to know how their clothing impacts the climate and how to change their shopping habits to buy more environmentally sustainable clothes. Even myself, I need to work on thinking about the places I shop at and the type of clothes I get. Thank you

  29. Sixty-six pounds of clothes per American per year? I knew it was bad, but that much is hard to believe. How much of that gets thrown away without ever being sold?

  30. The sad truth is that sustainable and eco clothing is typically far too expensive. I’m not even talking about fashion items. Just regular stuff from a sustainable supplier… it’s marked up because the very fact that it’s sustainable is considered to add extra value and for now it’s a niche product. All the same I do my best to find sustainable and sensibly priced clothing. But the really important thing really is to buy clothing that you will actually wear, a lot, and which is built to last that long. So, no cheap clothes that fall apart, and no ‘once a year’ items or stuff that only goes with one other specific thing.

  31. Could you do an episode on titanium dioxide? It is used in a variety of applications that help clean the air, including clothing.

  32. this is great and all but how can we do this in an affordable way? i don't know a single person who could afford anything on justine's website. the cheapest clothing item i could find was a v-neck priced at 86.39 USD. Sure, i could get a shirt or two, but i'd have to give up on like feeding my family and stuff. this system is not a realistic solution for disabled, impoverished, and low-income groups. there has to be a way we can do this without depriving poor people of their basic needs

  33. I wished you talked about how washing synthetic materials releases tiny plastic fibres into the water which most washing machines and sewer systems aren't capable of collecting before entering the sea. Even those of us who don't replace our clothes very often may be having a longterm negative impact purely because we chose to keep using synthetic clothing.

  34. I'm disappointed you didn't mention resale shops. Frugal people have always used them, but there are now articles about millennials opting to recycle their clothing this way – buy, wear for a while, then sell it back – so they can have a large variety be more sustainable both cost-wise and environmentally. I think always buying new stuff is one of the major mindsets we have to shift to deal with climate change, and this video didn't really question that consumerist mindset. A lot of eco brands are just contributing to the same problem, overconsumption, and letting people off the hook by feeling good about the "eco" part.

  35. Nitpick: Displaying your video communication in a screen that obviously mimics an iMac is bad. Why are you advertising a company who is consciously making decisions against sustainability in a video promoting it?

  36. I buy new clothes once every three to five years. When I do buy clothes, I usually buy only three outfits, sometimes only two and once I bought five. I do not need more than that.

  37. I think you really dropped the ball on this one. You should have mentioned second hand and vintage shopping. You should have also talked about sustainable ways people can donate their clothes and how the goodwills of the world are part of the problem. They sell the clothes we give to them to 3rd world countries and destroy their textile markets.

  38. Second hand, vintage stores and clothing swaps make up about 90% of all of my clothes (and accessories). No child-labor or workers' exploitation if I can avoid it. Plus, this is really light on my wallet 😊

  39. 2:10 i mean,
    ive bought lots of non cheap stuff from europe in europe and it still broke after a year,
    honestly i would much rather pay 120 euros for mediocre pants that hold up for 4+ years than pay 80-120 for ones that look pretty nice but need to be stitched together again every 6 months
    just to throw some dirt, im looking at you slightly oversized cinque chino that still tore after 7 months >:^(

  40. 5:18 can we get some numbers on that im not so sure if weight is the determining factor, its prob more of a volume thing
    if we were to ship a shoeboxless container filled to the brim with shoes it would prob have a much greater impact since we would have to push less heavy oil cargo ships through the oceans

  41. I've been wearing a lot of the same clothes for 6-8 years. I try not to buy clothes unless I NEED them. I hate spending the money and the environmental impact.

  42. I admit, I love buying funny cotton shirts with plastic on them, I haven't bought clothes in ages, but I know I am still guilty of putting my tempory happiness and collection before the environment, I should make the same change I did with going vegan.

  43. what a bummer, this would have been a greate oppertunity to crunch some numbers comparing profitability of sustainable clothing if a reasonable carbontax would be implemented.
    we are all eventually going to pay for the mess that is comming so we better just start accounting for the consequences of every one of our decisions.

  44. Oh yeah and fursuits! All the fursuits nowadays aremade out of nylon and there are not furry fabrics of natural fibers, only nylon. I am struggling to desing a production process with a friend t get rid of all the foam, nylon and ductape that traditionally is used but I have so little time because if I don[t work , no food x.x. My friend and I need help with that 🙁

  45. What about thrifting? Definitely the environmental impact is less if we recycle well made clothing from the past. But how does that compare to the environmental impact of running more and more buildings to support an industry expansion like that?

  46. I've been reducing my wardrobe and trying to find a mixable style mainly because I hate clutter and complications with too many options. But it's great to know the behavior is also in line with bettering the environment. Great video.

  47. @HOT MESS team, NASA had a really good interactive overview behind climate change showing among other things graphs of the different contributions that are being made to global warming (like emmsion effects, solar effects, etc) and thus showing which effects are dominating.
    Well I havn't been able to find that same NASA interactive climate change tutorial for a few years and I was wondering if your team knows what I am talking about and what the link to it is (made it was changed, or removed and/or replaced with something else?)?

  48. The thing I don't understand is the "organic" material that the clothes are made of. Doesn't GMO crops (like for cotton) require less water and crop extension than "organic" ones?

  49. Rather than throw our used clothes into landfills, what better alternatives do we have for disposing of our worn and used garments?
    I'm not talking about clothes that I just don't want anymore. Those can be donated. I'm talking about clothes that have been ripped, worn, or stained to the point where they no longer serve their purpose. I've always just thrown those away, but are there recycling programs for those sorts of things, or is that impractical given the wide variety of materials involved?

  50. If you ban clothes from landfills, then you create new small industry of sorting clothes into what is reusable (and can be sent to thrift stores) and what needs can be recycled.

    If you put tariffs on cheaper international brands, that prices them closer to domestic companies, and encourages international brand to set up manufacturing centers in your nation. Either way, you reduce the emissions of international shipping and help the domestic economy.

  51. I love shopping second hand. You can find a much bigger variety of clothes second hand! And you never know what gems you are going to find. I wear my clothes until they do not fit anymore or are full of holes.


    new sustainable ways of producing clothes are great, but the most obvious choice is to buy less new clothes in general and it's not even that hard to do so. most of my wardrobe comes from my family, my mum's friends, bazaars, or second hand shops. good materials, sturdily sewn, high quality, still looks good and regularly comes back in fashion.

  53. As some people have already mentioned, probably the best way to reduce emissions related to clothing is to buy second hand.

  54. Very insightful. Some of the solutions are interesting, but makes me wonder about the cost. Second hand shops is another environmentally friendly way to change your wardrobe. I'm using the video in a lesson plan for ESL students…lots to talk about Thanks.

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