Calling all shopping addicts – the ocean needs our help. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of carbon emissions and 20% of wastewater worldwide. This comes at the expense of our ocean and it’s about time it stopped.
Not only are recognisable brands such as Levi’s and Patagonia beginning to adopt more ethical practices. A whole wave of up-and-coming brands such as TALA, House of Sunny, Pact, and Thought are opening the door to a sustainable fashion revolution.
As consumers, we need to re-evaluate our shopping ethics. To educate ourselves on what exactly it is about the fashion industry that’s so detrimental to our oceans. We should all know which brands practice ocean-friendly values next time we’re doing some shopping.
Combating plastic pollution
We are living in the age of pollution. And plastic is the one addiction we just can’t seem to kick. We produce 8.3 billion tonnes of plastics per year and 8 million tonnes of which ends up in the ocean. But how does fashion come into play?
Well, with the increased demand for fast fashion comes the increased usage of synthetic materials. These are easier to produce for faster manufacture. In short, this equates to more micro-fibres (AKA plastic) and harmful chemicals polluting our oceans.
However, there is hope we can change these damaging ways. Brands such as Patagonia only use recycled polyester and nylon made from plastic bottles and even industrial fishing nets. They have also improved their production process including shedding microfibres from their materials. Keeping the amount of micro-plastics emitted during manufacturer to a minimum.
Alongside sustainable brand, Lucy and Yak who make 100% of their garments from organic or recycled material. These brands set good examples of how fashion manufacturing can be kept to minimal waste.
Save water…and your jeans
The fashion industry is practically draining the ocean. The entire process of making a pair of jeans, from cotton growing to dyeing, consumes up to 20,000 litres of water. This would take the average human 13 years to drink. Puts it into perspective doesn’t it? However, several brands are beginning to reduce their water usage during manufacture. Instead finding alternative, more sustainable methods of production.
Independent London-based Brand, House of Sunny pride themselves on their sustainability. They produce two small seasonal collections a year allowing their design team to source sustainable fabrics and methods.
All products are made from plastic-free and biodegradable fabrics. Most importantly, the brand uses e-flow technology to produce their denim. This reduces water consumption by up to 95% making it much more ocean-friendly.
In 2020, Levi’s launched their ‘most sustainable jean ever’, made from 20% recycled denim, 20% sustainably sourced viscose, and 60% organic cotton. With water usage significantly reduced during manufacturing.
The brand also gave out advice on how customers can prolong the lifespan of their denim. Such as washing their jeans less often, repairing or reinforcing them, and donating or recycling any unwanted pieces.
Say goodbye to dye
The textile dying process involved in fast-fashion is the second largest polluter of clean water globally. Roughly 17-20% of industrial water pollution being fabric dye. They use toxic chemicals in the process to be more time efficient and save on cost. Which means harmful chemicals end up in our streams and rivers and at length, make their way into our ocean.
Brands such as Pact use only eco-friendly organic cotton (which uses up to 95% less water than manufactured cotton). But it also means they steer clear from using any chemicals. Making it better for the ocean but also less harmful to their workers. A win-win all round.
Whilst some brands are sourcing organic materials, others such as Thought additionally use azo-free dyes and Oeko Tex certified finishes to their garments – creating sustainably sourced fashion that does not pollute the planet. Other brands need to take a leaf out of their book and find alternative methods of textile dying.
Slow fashion is the future
Fast fashion is the real culprit of ocean pollution. Even though brands are beginning to take steps in the right direction, ultimately it is the shift within consumer thinking that is aiding this positive change. As Stella McCartney, fashion designer and sustainability advocate, says:
“Fashion really is getting away with murder. There needs to be more systems in place, more vigorous testing, and as a customer you can do that, you can challenge the people who are making your fashion.” Stella McCartney
McCartney encourages consumer responsibility. To challenge brands who are not displaying ethical practices and take control in influencing how our clothes are made. The rise of sustainable brands aimed at combating fast-fashion.
For example, TALA has taken the world of gym wear by storm with the brand sky-rocketing in popularity since its launch in 2019. They use regenerated and recycled materials that would otherwise become waste – such as Q-Nova, Recover, Lyocell – to ensure their products are as eco-friendly as possible.
The rise in popularity and presence of social media in promoting sustainable brands has been incredibly effective. This has helped increase awareness of the industry’s detrimental effect on our planet and our oceans. Brands such as TALA are setting an example of how slow fashion will soon conquer fast fashion culture and help save the ocean in doing so.
What to take away
We are part of a generation driving eco-conscious fashion. It is encouraged to become more aware of what a brand should be doing for our planet and follow consumer values in shopping less. And when we do, ensuring it is coming from sustainably sourced materials and methods of production, or buying second-hand.
The key thing to remember is that every effort, no matter how small, goes a long way in saving our ocean.