Jill Goulder shares her findings and thoughts after a Friday night out…

On Friday 13 October I went to the Alternative Lewes event at the King’s Church, ‘What do your clothes really cost?’ Three speakers underlined from their personal knowledge the true ‘cost’ of the clothes that we buy and wear. In response to a question from the floor, all three nicely-dressed speakers confirmed that their clothes were mainly from charity shops. Among the many messages:

  • – It takes 2720 litres of water to make one T-shirt. Cotton-growing involves vast quantities of water, and it uses 16% of the world’s pesticides – choose organic cotton. And 20% of global water pollution comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles
  • – 1 in 6 of the world population is employed in the clothing industry. How much of the cost of a £5 T-shirt do you think goes to the garment-workers?
  • – US$3.1 billion is spent annually on Hallowe’en costumes in the USA, many of which are then thrown away.

But even more relevant for Transition Town Lewes is that most of the audience was under 30 years old! We’re constantly mulling over how to get our message to the newer generations, and could learn excellent lessons. The event combined talks and a ‘clothes-swap’ – you could bring along clothes which were nice but that you didn’t want, and hand them in and take away something else that appealed. Of course most of the audience was female, but not all. I gathered that some of the audience were friends of daughters of Alternative Lewes practitioners, with the word spreading peer to peer. So for attracting a younger audience, a) lay on a ‘pull’ such as a chance to get nice new (well, pre-loved) clothes, and b) use the ‘snowball’ approach to spread word of the event among young people. Note that the entrance fee was £6-8 but it didn’t deter them.