I try to ration my fabric use to 3.8 kg of natural fabric /fibre products. That is for everything from towels to dishcloths.Just so you know a kingsize double duvet cover from Ikea weighs in at 991 grams and a Marks & Spencer short-sleeved tee-shirt is 156 grams.

Why? Because I feel the plastic-free wardrobe, bedroom and spa should only contain natural fabrics in sustainable amounts. But what is sustainable. How much is that in real terms? And how do you decide?

Heres what fibres and fabrics are currently used in the U.K.

  • 3.25 million tonnes of clothing and textiles flow through the UK each year – approximately 55kg per person.
  • Consumers in the UK spend about £780 per head per year, purchasing around 2.15 million tonnes (35kg per person)

Heres how many textile fibres are produced annually:

So let’s do some sums. Rough calculations would suggest that the average amount of fibres per annum, for every person in the world, works out at 11.74 kg per person This is for everything – clothes, bedding, fabrics used in manufacturing, furnishings, businesses. All our fabric needs.

We in the UK are using 55kg of fabric per person and 35kg of that is on clothes. We are obviously taking more than our share of fabrics produced.

Here’s how the figures are worked…. There are 7,304,489,285 people in the world right now Current World Population These are the fabrics produced (see here for sources and more info)

source Fibre Metric tonnes Amount per person
1 Cotton 25000000 3.43 kg
1 Wool- Sheep 2100000 29g
1 Wool – Other 40000 1g
1 Silk 150000 2g
1 Linen 147000 2g
Total 3.8kg
2 Total Fibers (natural & synthetic) 85500000 11.74

Increased Consumption

We are taking more than our fair share. So what about those who have less than their fair share? Well the second-hand clothing market is huge. Tonnes of second-hand clothing each year are exported overseas (including many of the clothes donated to charity) ending up in third world street markets.

Result! The poorer countries can always have our cast offs. In fact we are doing them a favor by giving it away. But suppose the saucy poor want new clothes? And in the amounts we have them? To maintain our level of consumption, and give use all 35kg of clothes each year, production would have to triple.

Fabric production like everything has an environmental impact and carbon footprint, a rather large one actually. And then there’s the waste created by this massive amount of clothing. I would argue that it is not sustainable for us all to have 35kg of new clothes each year.

Responsible Consumption

So if we cannot produce more, we have to consume less.  This is how the equation works for me

  • We cannot exceed current levels of production
  • We cannot expect others to want less than we have.
  • Therefore we have to consume our global share

Fair sharing of resources or 11.74kg of fabric per person.

Plastic free consumption

I prefer to use only natural and, (ideally), organic fibres. There are many good reasons why (and here they are) However I do not think an increase in production is justified. For 11 kg of natural fibres per person we would need to grow tonnes more cotton, farm lots more sheep and millions of silkworms would have to die. This would put a huge pressure on land water and other natural resources. So I am going to use my share of natural fibres, 3.8kg of new fabrics a year for clothing, bedding and towels. I will use a few synthetic fibres for specialist clothing and tents.


This is a rough working figure. I am not claiming that current levels of production are sustainable. Nor that 11.74 kg per person is absolute. My world plan needs some work. Children for example might be given less, hospitals, nursing homes and other such places might need an allowance for more. Maybe you would have to pay part of your hotel bill with clothing coupons to contribute to sheet cost. There are all kinds of glitches that need working on but I have to start somewhere and this is it.

Benefits 9254be68c30f305028fb54a68f5198b4

Can it be done? I don’t know! But lets look at the benefits of the fair share fabric scheme. The first would be it would make clothes valuable and so valued again and the unsustainable consumption of clothing would be halted.

  • Clothes would be better made as they would have to last longer.
  • Rather than having hundreds of trashy items we would have fewer well made fantastic pieces.
  • We would all look like this
  • Quality fabrics like Harris tweed would be back in fashion.
  • People would adapt their clothes to suit new trends and not buy new
  • Swapping clothes would be the norm.

Really, it’s a fantastic idea. Second Hand Clothes Can I buy second hand clothes to supplement my allowance? No. I can buy second-hand but it has to count as part of my allowance.

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9 thoughts on “My Share Of Fabric

  1. I never thought of consumption by weight either, but I do think that a lot of people dont realise the life span of a lot of fabrics……. towels last on average for 20 years – and I know some of mine are older. if they go tat on the edges, I will bind them with colourful fabric and I have also dyed a few darker shades. a lot of fabrics can be reused to the nth (especially, I have found, the older textile from charity shops will be better quality).

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