Teaching Children the Value of What They Have
A Case for not buying into fast fashion, let's explore...
Getting something new is always super fun and exciting... especially for kids! However, as soon as your child is old enough to have more control of his or her pocket money, things can become a little more complicated. So begins the journey of learning how to self-regulate and manage those new impulses. All part-in-parcel of youngsters taking on more responsibility and independence. The temptation is undeniable, and excitement levels run high. For kids to make their pocket money last, an easy option would be for them to buy cheaper products from various fast-fashion companies. Understandably, this could seem like a no-brainer as it would stretch their money further allowing more 'bang for their hard earned buck'! Social media can perpetuate the issue being a tricky platform for the most experienced adult among us to manage effectively, let alone for our youngsters to handle. We all deal with a constant stream of visual stimulation, 'what's new', 'what's cool', 'must have's' flooding every screen subtly and persuasively, sending loads of customised messaging. Is it possible for kids to navigate and sort through all of the noise and information whilst keeping their independence intact? The Huffington Post explored an engaging guidance-related topic suggesting children be taught the "perils of fast fashion as early as possible", a take on how to approach the issue from the get-go.
Writer and Mother of two, Anya Hart Dyke, reflects on exploring this topic in-depth with her daughter in hopes of planting a seed. Conveying to her the importance of assessing her own values and explaining the actualities of how and why clothing is made, used and where they ultimately end up- because they don't just disappear, they have to end up somewhere!
Approximately how long does it take for materials to decompose in a landfill?
Cotton: 1-5 months
Leather shoes: 50 years
Nylon clothing: 40 years
Rubber boots: 80 years
The very first lesson... was in the re-education of her daughters then knowledge and understanding of the 'how's' and 'why's' of the fashion industry. Together they physically buried samples of fabric in their backyard- an example to demonstrate just how long it would take for different materials to decompose. The second step was to imagine this on a much larger scale, what that would look like in a commercial landfill? How quickly an item decomposes depends firstly on what it is. Human-engineered fibres like polyester, nylon and acrylic, are mostly a type of plastic that can take hundreds of years if not a thousand to biodegrade by the time they reach their final destination, a landfill. Polyester makes up the material of over half of all of our clothing and will stay on our planet indefinitely- a fact hard to fully comprehend.
Did you know it can take 2700 litres of water to make a single cotton t-shirt and an additional 500g of pesticides? Globally we produce over 1 billion t-shirts per year!
Anya and her daughter discussed the different possible options of limiting what they had in her wardrobe and what she needed to add- this begged the question, do I need it?
Inevitably all children grow out of their clothes or wear them out due to their age and day-to-day wear and tear. So when it came time to replace the outgrown items, they discussed their various options. Instead of throwing these items away she decided to donate them to others in need and avoid her usually shopping jaunts, instead she invested in 'good as new' things from a secondhand clothing store. A practical tip Anya gave her daughter was to pay close attention to the clothing tags of these items before committing to buying them and ask herself a question, who made these clothes?
They spoke about how factories work, their varying conditions, and together researched different manufacturing processes what that can entail. Clothing production methods take a toll on our planet and workers safety is also a major issue in the fashion industry. Did you know it can take 2700 litres of water to make a single cotton t-shirt and an additional 500g of pesticides? Globally we produce over 1 billion t-shirts per year, and when you do the math what a frightening calculation!
Parents are the most influential role models children have in their young lives and the good news is that parents don’t need to be environmentalists, activists or educators to raise their children to consume wisely.” Anya Hart Dyke.
So, how do we lead by example and model good behaviour when it comes to our own purchases?
Value what you have!
Take care of your clothing by hanging it up or folding it after wear, and only washing it when it is really dirty. Polish your furniture, and your shoes!
When things break, mend them. Choose a patch together to sew over a hole. Replace a button, or a zip. Work to get that stain out. Fix a broken toy.
Show them that the thrill of getting something new can last a lot longer if you save for something you really want, and value what you have. Buy good quality and make it last. Buy natural fabrics over synthetic.
Recycle the things you no longer need!
Sell or give away used toys, homewares and furniture to those that will use it.
Get them involved!
Give children the task of sorting their outgrown clothes into sell, donate and treasure piles. You could let them decide how to spend the money they earn from selling their used clothes to buy the next size they need.
The fashion industry is the 2nd most polluting industry in the world, but it is up to our generation and our children to start making changes so this is not always the case. Children will learn to understand that the clothes they wear can be a great way to express who you are and what they like. Our hope is that they will choose to express that they care about the environment by buying less, choosing well and keeping their outgrown clothing in circulation and out of landfill.