In a similar vein, I have massive problems justifying the purchase of cotton due to the environmental damage caused by its production. Susannah at Cargo Cult Craft recently posted about and linked up an interesting report about the environmental impact of clothing which included the issues surrounding cotton production. (BTW, Susannah's post inspired some fascinating and inspired comments which I well recommend checking out.) However, whilst Susannah was busy highlighting these issues of which I am aware and thoroughly concerned about, I was busy writing a post for the Colette Patterns blog eulogising Cotton Sateen and effectively promoting its use. Dichotomy? Yes. Any answers? Not really.
My only justification is that I strongly believe that the 'slow fashion' option of sewing your own garments, which of course usually involves purchasing new fabric, is always going to result in less environmental damage than the purchase (and often very rapid consumption) of mass-manufactured garments. Similarly, the extra effort and time that goes into creating a garment from scratch, using a fabric that you hand-picked and adore, is much more likely to result in a garment that will be treasured, worn and mended when necessary than end up in a landfill nine months after its completion. When a garment has a high real or perceived value, its lifespan will be longer. Obviously the opposite is also true, with £3 T-shirts regularly being discarded like applecores.
My first arguement would always be that it is better to use what is to hand, or what someone else no longer wants, before purchasing new. However, it is unlikely that even the most committed of us will never purchase new fabric for our sewing projects. And for the reasons described above, if we buy fabric that we really like, that will only contribute to our enjoyment of the process and final product and therefore lead to a longer life for it in the long run.
Did I mention that I really like Cotton Sateen?!