It is no secret that we are in the midst of a colossal global climate crisis. While this plight is already having detrimental effects on the Global South, no corner of the world is safe from the catastrophic impact global warming is having.
We can all admit that the problems that we are facing are extremely overwhelming, and a lot of us have no idea where to start when it comes to playing our part in moving towards a sustainable future. However, as a collective, we still need to try to minimise the footprints we leave each day.
Fashion accounts for around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, and produces over 92 million tonnes of waste per year, making it the second largest contributor of industrial pollution. It is also one of the largest contributors of microplastic in our oceans.
Fast fashion is rapidly causing havoc on our planet, and we need to move towards a system of circular fashion. As consumers we need to be making more mindful decisions when we're clothes shopping.
In order to move towards a sustainable future we need to look at the ways in which we consume fashion today. Clothes shopping over the past couple of decades has become less of a special occasion and more of a regular occurrence due to the rise of the internet and online shopping.
The convenience of online allows us to buy whatever we want, whenever we want, meaning we consume more fast fashion than ever before. However, if we do move towards a more sustainable model of consumption, we will be able to help cut carbon emissions.
Sustainable Development Goals
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was set out in 2015, as a blueprint for creating peace and prosperity across the globe. The agenda consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals which are an urgent call to action for all countries in order to preserve our planet. These goals include; eradicating poverty, ensuring access to clean water, providing education for all, gender equality and sustainable consumption.
The fashion industry plays a large role in helping to achieve these goals due to the fact it has so many issues around its ethics and sustainability - from the exploitation of millions of workers in the Global South, to water pollution and overconsumption due to the rise of fast fashion. It is vital, now more than ever, that as a collective we take on board these Sustainable Development Goals in order to save our planet from further destruction.
What the fashion industry can do help move towards sustainability
Creating a circular economy for fashion is one way in which the industry can work on becoming more sustainable. The industry needs to move from creating cheap garments which are only made to be worn sparingly, to making garments that are made from safe and recyclable materials, which are made to last and that are able to be recycled again.
In an article for Scientific America, Allison Hirschlang reports that a 2017 study showed that if the lifespan of items such as cotton t-shirts, jeans, and polyester dresses was quadrupled, there could be around 75% savings when it comes to water usage.
Between 2000 and 2015, clothing production doubled, and the amount of times a garment was worn before it was thrown away decreased by 36%. This doubling in production meant profit margins decreased by around 40% from 2016 to 2019, due to prices being lowered and lost revenues from overstocks and returns. In 2018 2.1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas was produced by the fashion industry, equating to 4% of the global total.
A circular business model would allow companies to make revenue without having to make new garments. This both creates a huge opportunity for the fashion industry to grow and greenhouse gases would be cut dramatically.
Things we can do as consumers to be more sustainable
As consumers of fashion, we all need to minimise our footprints. Even by just making small changes to our consumption habits, we can have a huge impact on creating a better future for our planet.
Buying second hand clothes is an easy way in which we can have a positive impact. Statistics show that the amount of people who are turning to charity shops to find garments has risen.
In 2019, charity shop sales increased by 18.1% compared to the previous two years. Charity shopping is a great way to buy clothes for much cheaper prices and by giving them a new home, we are helping to reduce the amount of garments that go to landfill- not to mention it's a fun activity to do with friends!
Shopping on sites such as eBay, Depop or Vinted are also great ways to shop second hand. They are just as convenient as shopping online normally, so they’re great if you live a busy lifestyle and don’t have time to hunt in charity shops. Even just by buying an item of clothing from one of these shops rather than brand new, it can help save on emissions and water use.
By being more mindful about our consumption, whether that be by cutting down the amount of clothing we buy, shopping second hand. or shopping with more sustainable brands, we can take a step in the right direction and help meet the Sustainable Development Goals, set out to help us save our planet.