Did you know that your wardrobe has a significant social and environmental impact? So each clothing purchase you make has an effect on the lives of people, animals, and ecosystems around the world. The fashion industry contributes significantly to climate change. Every year, it accounts for more than 8% of all global carbon emissions. The apparel and textile industry is still expanding, and CO2 emissions are expected to rise by 50% by 2030. Lets have a look how it’s impacts are destroying out precious earth and what you can do to protect it.
Faster fashion, deeper damage
So what is fast fashion? Fast fashion is defined as low-cost, trendy clothing that takes inspiration from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns it into garments in high-street stores at rapid speed to satisfy consumer demand. Whilst this may not appear to be a problem at first glance, fast fashion clothing is purposefully made with lower-quality materials, resulting in a significantly shorter lifespan. Because of this increased consumption, fast fashion raises a number of environmental and ethical concerns. Here are some devastating facts:
The textiles and fashion industry has caused a 7% decrease in local groundwater and drinking water globally
After production, 60% of approximately 150 million garments produced globally in 2012 were discarded only a few years later.
Annually, the United States contributes 14 million tonnes of clothing waste.
As clothing degrades in landfills it releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
Unfortunately, some customers regard these items as disposable. One-third of young women consider a piece of clothing worn once or twice to be old, according to the State of Fashion Report. So it's not just a logistical issue of poor environmental practices in terms of land use, water pollution, and carbon emissions; there's also a genuine and systemic 'want' attitude represented in consumer markets.
Time for a change
Companies must adapt their business models to compete as fast fashion has taken the world by storm. The fashion industry used to have a two-season fashion cycle, with an autumn / winter collection and a spring/summer collection. These seasons have now evolved into 52 micro seasons for the 52 weeks of the year.
To help reduce the fashion industry's global footprint, key industry stakeholders collaborated with the United Nations in 2018 under the "Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action." This is the first charter that connects fashion and the climate crisis. This charter, based on the Paris Agreement, aims to drive the fashion industry to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Many companies and fashion powerhouses have begun to take a more sustainable approach. Levi Strauss and Company announced plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions from their facilities by 90%. They also pledged to cut emissions from their entire supply chain by 40% by 2025. H&M has committed to providing sustainable and ethically made clothing via a circular production model, as well as plans to run entirely on renewable energy by 2040.
There are already some solutions for better utilisation. Changing our consumption model is more feasible than we think, and here are a list of ways that we, as consumers can help to prevent any further damage:
Repair your clothes rather than buying new ones- With the fast fashion model, collections and our new clothes change every month. If we change the model and prefer to repair them when we notice a hole, for example, or when a button is missing, it will have an effect on the life length of your clothes and make them last longer.
Wash your clothes correctly- There's no need to wash your clothes at such a high temperature. Cleaning at 30°C or 40°C is sufficient to remove the dirt. Also, avoid putting clothes that have only been worn once into the washing machine because they are usually not dirty enough.
Choose organic or recycled fabric- The French environment agency (ADEME) advises consumers to buy clothing made of organic cotton, recycled cotton, or polyester. Recycling methodology claims that it can reduce the impact by up to 99%. Another option is to use fibres derived from natural sources, such as wood cellulose.
It is critical for the textile and fashion industries to mitigate the environmental impacts caused by excessive water usage, toxic waste release, and large amounts of waste generated. Individual consumers can help by limiting their consumption of fast fashion. Next time you're thinking of throwing that top away, or washing those jeans that aren’t dirty, just think of the damage it can cause and be MORE SUSTAINABLE. If you pay a little more, we can live a little better.