Why H&M’s World Recycling Week is bullsh*t #FashionRevolution

Yesterday I had the honor to be on air at the German radio station Funkhaus Europa 😊. I am very impressed by how critically they are when it comes to the subject of sustainability. They have a critical approach, unlike most mainstream media who pretty much just repeat what politics and economy consider “sustainable” – which is indeed a standard set too low too limbo 😜.

World-Recycling-Week-h&m

The occasion why they invited me was to get my take on H&M’s huge World Recycling Week campaign – with one of my favorite artists M.I.A. as the face of the campaign 😓…! Very, very disappointing I must say.

So here’s the talk we had on air! I had a lot of fun, even though during the very first question my nose was all itchy due to the hay fever and I kind of lost my train of thought when I almost had to sneeze LOL 🙈… Spring, what did I ever do to you 😝?

So what do you think about H&M’s campaign?

To be honest, I find it outrageous. This week the Fashion Revolution Week is raising awareness by asking #WhoMadeMyClothes. This week three years ago the factory Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,134 people and injuring hundreds more. Even now, H&M’s workers still toil in extremely dangerous conditions, even though H&M promised better conditions!

So instead of joining in and taking responsibility, H&M has decided they would rather splurge their money on the huge greenwashing campaign “World Recycling Week”!

#FashionRevolutionWeek

This campaign is everything BUT sustainable! H&M wants in on the secondhand clothing market, snatching these clothes away from welfare organizations! H&M is NOT a charitable organization! So seeing how they are willing to spend probably millions on a campaign, they must expect quite a lot of profit.

H&M would have a far bigger impact if they worked on what is CAUSING the problems in the first place, which is the way they produce! Inhumane and extremely dangerous working conditions, harmful substances, pollution, and fast fashion with clothes made to last only weeks just don’t make H&M a company that deserves to be labeled “sustainable”. I was also very disappointed to see that M.I.A. – one of my favorite artists – is the face of the campaign!

Okay, so we won’t give our old clothes to H&M. Where do you bring yours?

Oh, there are a bunch of options. If you still want a bit of money for your clothes, you can bring them to secondhand stores or sell them directly on the internet. I usually have a blast at swap parties.

If you want to donate your clothes, look for welfare organizations and other NGOs in your city that have an own store set up where they sell the secondhand clothes they collect. Refugee camps also accept donations, but you should call first because clothes is what people donate most. But what is indeed needed most are household items like pots and pans, plates, burners, silverware and other everyday items. And if you do decide to donate your clothes: Please don’t unload your unwanted rags there. Fugitives too deserve to feel comfortable in their clothes and not ashamed and humiliated.

When buying clothes, do we unknowingly generate trash we don’t know about? Besides the shopping bags of course.

It is not unusual for every piece of clothing to come in an individual plastic bag. These are usually removed before the staff puts the clothes on the racks. Unfortunately, organic and fairtrade fashion items are no exception.

Fashion Revolution Week

However, the by far bigger problem is the fashion industry itself, because it manufactures demand by creating fast paced trends. This wastes a tremendous amount of resources, furthers inhumane and extremely dangerous working conditions and pollutes the environment. 

The production is very damaging to the environment. I was told that sports wear is extremely bad because of the synthetic fabric it is made of. Is it true? Would it be better to buy cotton instead?

When it comes to clothes, I’m afraid that pretty much everything that isn’t organic or fairtrade is harmful. It’s just a very sad truth. Fair and a somewhat eco-friendly productions are still very very rare. Somewhere along the production process workers were exploited, and you will find harmful substances in pretty much every piece of clothing. Buying secondhand is skin friendlier by the way. Because the substances have already been washed out.

Stats

I’d love to be able to tell you that by switching to cotton everything is good and well. But conventional cotton is in fact the most pesticide-polluted plant in the world! To produce just one kilogram of cotton 23,000 liters of water are needed, and yet cotton is mostly grown in areas suffering from droughts. Synthetic fibres like polyester are plastic! And so they come with everything that you usually find in plastics: BPA, flame retardants, phthalates…

If you want to avoid harmful substances in clothes I highly recommend going for organic and fairtrade options. Nowadays many labels like Bleed, Monkey Genes oder Armed Angels have killer fashion, just without the killing part. They are as pricey as other brand-name clothes. And I believe everybody can afford them if they are willing to buy only one top instead of maybe for cheap ones. And you get really good quality that will last.

So toxic substances can be washed out. But washing your clothes usually also means plastic waste from the detergent’s packaging, and all the fabric softeners are also a great source of pollution. On your blog you wrote that you use chestnuts to wash your laundry! Say, how does THAT work?

Health food stores now sell so-called soap nuts, imported from India, and they are all the rage now for organic-crazed people. The demand for soap nuts in Europe has increased tremendously, and the prices for soap nuts have increased as well. So the locals themselves cannot afford soap nuts anymore. They are forced to use regular laundry detergent. The waste water there is often not processed at all and so the chemicals end up in the rivers. So we have managed to make everything even worse.

This is just exemplary nonsense, especially since we have our own wash nuts – the common horse chestnut!

Kastanie auf der Straße

Chestnuts contain so-called saponines, just like soap nuts do! So we literally have laundry detergent grow on trees! We just have to collect them when fall comes! I don’t think there’s a more sustainable option – no wasteful packaging, super local, and you’re using something that would otherwise rot on the streets. All you have to do is to shred and dry them. For every load you pour hot water over 50-60g of chestnuts and the “brew” is your laundry detergent.

I do like the smell of freshly washed clothes. But how do your clothes smell when you use chestnuts to wash them?

Your laundry will come out clean, but odorless, which is a lot better for your skin.

Wäsche mit Kastanien-Waschmittel gewaschen

But it’s also really easy to have your clothes smell nice. Just add some drops of an essential oil you like. Oh, and if your laundry is very dirty you can add 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda. Easy peasy, really!

Using chestnuts as laundry detergent – I will definitely give it a try.

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14 Comments

  1. Thank you for mentioning me! Nice post. i’ve never heard of chestnuts as laundry detergent. Super interesting. Will try it our next autumn. 🙂 Till then, what do you think of Eco detergents?

    • Also I was also disappointed that M.I.A joined the campaign. I wonder what made her do it or if she is regretting it…

      • Hm, I do think that eco detergents are better than conventional ones, but well, it still has to be produced, packaged, and transported. Also, even eco detergents very often contain perfumes and additives that can cause skin breakouts for people with sensitive skin. Even without using chest nuts, I do prefer laundry detergent made from alep soap and baking soda.

  2. Great post! And all so true. I’m with MadVoyage on the chestnuts – very cool and new to me too. Thanks for the shout-out!

    • I love using chestnuts (well, hubby does, since he is the one doing our laundry), and I do enjoy our odorless clean laundry! I have always suffered from allergies, so things that have a strong perfumy smell make me feel like my skin is going to break out :D.

  3. The True Cost is really a movie, you must see. Although I knew about conditions in clothing factories from the news, this film really shows what today’s fashion industry is like and to me, it was really startling!

    • I know right :'(? It’s so easy to just forget about it when you see a nice piece of clothing, and people do like NOT to think about things that make them feel uncomfortable…

  4. Anonymous

    Oh man everything is bad. Im like 17 and don’t buy my own clothes, i use soap nuts but thats a good thought, ill try out chestnuts. It just sucks because i love band t-shirts and consistently wear them and i don’t see any of those floating around that sucks. I’m trying to zero waste but im encountering a lot of resistance from my parents, particularly my mom who is all about fast fashion and plastic, and convenience. Well at least I’m moving out next year, but for now ill settle for natural fiber clothing from thrift stores.

    • It’s so cool you are going zero waste even though your parents are, um, not that much into eco stuff lol. Yeah, band tees are hard to come by secondhand. Do reach out to your favorite bands and ask them if they would consider printing on fairtrade organic t-shirts! They might like the idea, you never know :)!
      And there’s light at the end of the tunnel: you ARE moving out soon, and that means you will have more control over how you wanna do things ;)!

      • Marinette

        Thank you so much, your honestly super inspirational. I never realized how important the zero waste movement was until i got to your website, it used to be more of an after thought, thanks for the advice!

  5. “The demand for soap nuts in Europe has increased tremendously, and the prices for soap nuts have increased as well. So the locals themselves cannot afford soap nuts anymore. They are forced to use regular laundry detergent. The waste water there is often not processed at all and so the chemicals end up in the rivers. So we have managed to make everything even worse.”

    See, I’ve seen a ton of bloggers recommend soap nuts, and you’re the ONLY person I’ve ever seen talk about downsides. Thank you for being so honest and seeing the bigger picture! Now that I live near a park, maybe I can round up some chestnuts this autumn….

    • It makes me so so sad to know that people just ignore these kinds of issues! The same goes for “superfoods”… So glad to know there are people out there who appreciate the sometimes “inconvenient truth”, as Al Gore put it 🙂

  6. Elizabeth

    Great article! Thank you so much for sharing all of this information. I’ve been browsing through your site and everything you write is so well-informed, articulate, and loaded with positive intentions! Thank you for doing all that you do <3

  7. Anonymous

    I love your blog, thank you for sharing all this stuff! Best wishes from Bavaria:)

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