People often wonder about the term ‘Sustainable Fashion“ or “Eco Fashion”. Though it has become a popular trend in the field of the fashion industry, raising the level of consumer awareness is yet to spring up. People may know the meaning literally, but they fail to envision its impact on our environment and economy as well.
Sustainable fashion can be defined as a part of the growing design trend, which aims at creating an ecosystem where economic growth and environmental health can mutually sustain.
We can’t deny the fact that consumers are the backbone of the economic system of any nation. No industry can ever flourish if there is a lack of consumer demand for a product or service. So we, as consumers, play a vital role in any economic or social change. According to the Multiplier Effect of microeconomics, the cycle of Consumer Demand, Investment, and Innovations brings out the Industrial Revolution. So it is of utmost importance to create consumer awareness first if you really want to bring about any effective change which goes true for Fashion Industry too.
Why should we care for sustainable fashion?
Well, it’s a common question we all ask but hardly any of us dig deeper to find out the answers. Many of us even think about how can a few pieces of clothes that we wear could affect the environment and somehow we end up putting the blame on manufacturers for not adhering to sustainable standards. It also makes sense to all of us, right?
So this is the kind of mindset we need to change. The real fact is we as consumers always demand a lower price for high quality as well as sophisticated designs which gives rise to a marketplace that is flooded with fast fashion clothing and accessories. We also look for freshness in design trends every now and then. Like all businesses, textile manufacturers are here to make money, and thus to satisfy the hunger for fast fashion the production quality and labor wages are compromised to a great extent. As a result, poor people suffer and the environment gets polluted in a much bigger way than we can even think of.
Let’s find out some facts about the Textile Industry
Clothing is such a bare necessity of human life that it paves the way for the massive production of textiles on a global scale. In fact, it is one of the most resource-intensive industries in terms of natural resources like water, electricity, oil, and human labor as well as fusing many industries like agriculture, yarn producing, fabric manufacturing, dyeing, designing, sewing, packaging, marketing, and recycling. According to industry reports since the 20th century, with the advancement of technologies and transportation, the scenario has become highly globalized where garments are designed in one country, manufactured in another, and then sold worldwide. This has been coupled with rising demand for Fast Fashion with a higher disposable rate. Here are some recent eye-opening facts about the harmful environmental impact of the fashion industry backed up by scientific studies.
- On average, a global citizen consumes 11.4 kg of apparel annually. This produces 442 kg of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent(CO2 Eq) emissions per capita, the same amount emitted while driving a car 1500 miles.
- The global clothing and footwear industry accounts for eight percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions that is four metric gigatonnes of CO2, almost equal to the total greenhouse emissions of the European Union. . More than 50 percent of the emissions come from three phases dyeing and finishing (36%), yarn preparation (28%) and fiber production (15%).
- Apparel’s climate impact is expected to increase by 49% which would be equal to today’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions in the entire United States
- It takes as much water to produce one t-shirt as a human drink in two-and-a-half years, Manufacturing a single pair of Levi’s is the equivalent of burning 21 pounds (9.3 kgs) of coal.
- The volume of water consumed by the global fashion industry is 79 billion cubic meters which are enough to fill about 32 million Olympic-size swimming pools
- Greenpeace reports on chemical content in sportswear and fashion found that two major brands contained known hazardous chemicals, like Phthalates, PFCs, Dimethylformamide (DMF), Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), and Nonylphenols (NPs). And a Swedish study estimates that ten percent of all textile-related substances are “considered to be of the potential risk to human health.”
- According to the EPA, Americans toss 14 million tonnes of textiles out each year, double the amount they did 20 years ago. Greenpeace reports that the UK disposes of 350,000 tonnes of clothing in landfills annually. Since sales of clothing have nearly doubled from one trillion dollars in 2002 to 1.8 trillion dollars in 2015, and clothing sales are projected to rise to $2.1 trillion by 2025, a corresponding increase in textile waste is expected.
- In a study commissioned by sustainable apparel maker Patagonia, it was found that a synthetic jacket (such as a fleece) may release up to 2.7 grams (0.09 ounces) of microfibers with each washing (that’s up to 250,000 microfibers). On average, such a garment releases 1.7 grams of microfibers. While wastewater treatment plants may filter out some of this debris, some (anywhere from 6,500 to 28,000) inevitably sneak through and end up in waterways.
How We Can Impact As Consumers?
I’ve seen many people who understand the scenario and care for the environment as well but they are often stuck on where to begin. So here are some simple and practical ways you can follow to help protect the environment as well as your health.
- So the first step is to stop buying Polyester and Nylon because they are made from petroleum which is a major cause of global warming. It involves large amounts of fossil fuel to manufacture Polyester and Nylon which releases dangerous chemicals such as hydrogen chloride into the atmosphere. Also avoid any piece of clothing that is labeled as anti-shrink, anti-wrinkle, anti-stain, antibacterial, antistatic, antimicrobial, anti-odor, or anti-flame. These are all heavily processed fabrics with harmful chemicals that may not be good for human skin and definitely bad for the environment.
- Always choose Organic Cotton and other natural fibers such as Hemp, Linen, Bamboo, Peace Silk, etc. which are way better than man-made synthetic fibers in terms of quality, comfort, and their impact on the environment.
- Buy clothes/accessories which have a Fair Trade mark and/or Organic certification. Companies that practice Fair Trade give fair wages to local workers, provide them with a healthy working environment and treat them with dignity and respect. So buying a Fair Trade product will help improve the quality of life for communities around the world. Also, look for products that are organically certified by authentic bodies. This way you can ensure that the piece of cloth you are wearing has a minimum carbon footprint on the environment.
- Last but not the least, imbibe the rule of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. Think before buying and buy only if you actually need it. It’s always better to have a well-managed wardrobe with a minimalistic approach rather than overcrowding it and getting confused about what to wear. Besides, the final and most important thing is to recycle all your clothes in a creative way. A good way is to donate your clothes to the needful and you can also buy second-hand clothes. Make sure that your old clothes are sent to proper recycling units and are not dumped into landfills.
So practice these simple ways to create a sustainable wardrobe, be proud of what you wear, and encourage others to do so by being a living example, not by giving lectures. Don’t forget to share your experiences of this wonderful journey. We would be happy to hear from you.