Did you know that the fashion industry accounts for 10% of global emissions (1)? Yep! In fact, the textile industry is the second largest emitter after the fossil fuel industry. Fashion manufacturing releases 1.2 billion tonnes of Co2 annually! (1). What is it about making clothes that has caused the fashion industry to produce more yearly emissions than all of the world’s international flights and maritime commutes combined (1)?
Well, the issues lie in a multitude of places including water contamination, water usage, transportation, fast-fashion, and waste.
Water Contamination: The process of dyeing textiles often results in the pollution of local water ways. In fact, textile dyeing is the second largest contaminate of fresh water after agricultural run-off (2).
Additionally, Polyester, a cheap and easy to manage fiber, is primarily created from plastic. Unfortunately, when washed polyester’s small plastic fibers shed and are washed into our pipes which eventually lead to the oceans.
Water Usage: Cotton, although soft, is an extremely thirsty crop. One cotton shirt is made from approximately 2,700 liters of water (3)! This damages communities that face water scarcity and is a lead contributor to the draining of the Aral Sea (4).
Transportation: The multi-step process of a designer’s piece becoming a mass produced clothing item requires a complex, back and forth communication between designers, distributors, and manufactures. In an article about Sustainable Fashion for Vogue, Maya singer puts it best stating, “…the steps required to create the fabrics designers pore over at shows such as Première Vision, not to mention the hydra-headed distribution network that delivers apparel to stores. Farmers farm, weavers weave, dye-ers dye, cutters cut, sewers sew; goods are packaged and placed onto pallets and heaved onto cargo ships or jammed into air freight; they arrive at warehouses worldwide and go back out again, to shops or to shoppers buying online. Millions of people and metric tons of water, chemicals, crops, and oil are involved in the process that turns a designer’s fancy into a sensuous object hanging on a rail in a store. That’s the supply chain, and its labyrinthine totality is designed to make the satisfaction of consumer desire as frictionless as possible. I want that! Click. A couple days later, a package arrives on your doorstep.” (5)
All in all, the fashion supply chain is one of the most complex, multi-stepped supply chains in the world and all of that bustling creates an immense amount of emissions.
Fast Fashion: If you’ve ever walked into a Forever 21, then you’ve seen fast fashion. Fast fashion is about creating clothes quickly and cheaply to keep-up with ever-changing trends. The swiftness of demand on the fast fashion industry leads to seedy methods of production that often involve using toxic chemicals, cutting corners on environmental regulations, and inhumane conditions for workers.
What you can do:
Thrift: Thrifting allows you to get more wear per item of clothes and thus decrease the demand on the fashion industry. Every time you swipe you credit card, you’re casting you’re vote in support of a certain good or industry! Thus if less people buy brand new clothes off the rack, less clothes are manufactured. Think before you swipe!
Clothes Swaps: Attending a clothes swap is a great way to garner some new pieces without spending any money. One clothes swap company that is growing around Europe is called Nu. I went to a Nu Clothes swap while studying in London and LOVED it. I traded in an old top for a lovely blue wool cardigan. They set college campuses up with the resources to host successful clothes swaps, spread awareness about sustainable fashion, and host an online clothes library where college students can borrow clothes from one another. Check out the Nu blog here.
Use the 30 wears rule: Before you buy retail, ask yourself, “Will I wear this 30 times?”(7). If the answer is no, keep it moving… all the way to your local thrift store.
Don’t throw away clothes: I know this is a given, but nearly 26 billion pounds of textiles and clothes end up in US landfills each year (6). In fact, the average American throws away nearly 81 pounds of textiles each year! (6). Don’t be that guy! Instead, make some fast cash by selling old pieces to your local consignment shop or listing them on Poshmark. Or even better dontae Them.
The best thing about sustainable fashion is that it is much cheaper than shopping retail. Meanwhile, the pieces you find are uniquely yours, not massively produced. What’s more, you get to say “NO” to the infamous Fashion industry which is notorious for outsourcing to 3rd world countries, dousing clothes in strong chemicals, and not providing employees with adequate pay or working conditions.
Items retail sales for $60 cost them around 60 cents to make. This is in large part because of worker exploitation and lenient environmental and labor protection laws in developing nations. Don’t be tricked by the fashion industry. Start thrifting today!
My next post will be a look-book of my favorite thrifted pieces! Stay Tuned!
Ps. if you would like your sustainable wardrobe to be featured please feel free to connect with me on the “contact” page!