On a global scale, the fashion industry now produces more greenhouse emissions and pollution than the oil industry. Clothing is a vital product and has many different forms of expression, but the current trend for fast fashion now not only pollutes through its forms of manufacturing, but it has also resulted in an annual global waste cost of around $460 billion dollars. Put another way, around 87% of all clothing products now end up in landfill.
There are many issues surrounding fashion’s sustainability ethics and in recent days, the UN has launched an alliance in order to tackle fast fashion’s environmental impact. However, changes are being made throughout the industry, from the manufacturing process to the recycling opportunities. So, how do we fix fashion’s sustainability problems?
Natural Doesn’t Always Mean Organic
Staggeringly, over 43 million tonnes of chemicals are used in textile production each year, ranging from the pesticides needed to grow cotton to the micro metals found in colour dyes. Around 20% of water pollution in Asian countries is attributed to fashion and clothing production, with problems particularly bad in China, Pakistan and India.
Many consumers believe that, because cotton is a natural product, then it is sustainable. However, growing cotton uses around 20,000 litres of water per kilo of cotton that is produced. When it comes to organic cotton, then this certifies that the farmer will be paid a premium price and around 70-80% of organic cotton crops use rainwater and no pesticides.
Threads and Trims
Whilst they are slightly more expensive, organic and natural fibres, such as cotton and hemp, can be used as compost or recycled when they reach the end of their usable cycle. But, what most people don’t know, is that if polyester threads have been used to stitch the garment together, or plastic buttons and metal zips have been added, then these products are no longer bio-degradable and will only add to the problem.
More and more ethical fashion brands are sourcing sustainable fittings and fastenings which will break down naturally with the main material. They have started to look at each and every component which makes up the item of clothing to ensure that after they are worn, repaired and reused then they are biodegradable or can be recycled.
Horizon Athletic are a gym and sportswear brand, specialising in high waisted gym leggings and swimsuits. Based in Australia, their pieces stand the test of time by using a material which includes Econyl, which is a fibre made from recycled fishing nets and consumer waste.
If you’re looking for sustainable basics for your wardrobe, then Everlane is worth the investment. Their basic items all come with a twist, whether you are looking for a little flair in an A-line dress or a new tee in a bold colour,
Perhaps one of the biggest brands when it comes to fashion, Stella McCartney were famed for making sustainable fashion a “thing” before it was considered a trend. They have raised the bar for setting sustainable and environmental standards each and every year, using many different materials including organic cotton, regenerated cashmere and recycled polyester.
We are all guilty of buying clothing and wearing it just a few times, but thanks to fast fashion, the number of times which we wear an item of clothing has reduced by almost 30% in just 5 years. Dresses and skirts are amongst the most popular items that are discarded for no other reason than we simply no longer like them. An estimated $500 billion worth of value is lost each and every year to clothing which is no longer worn and hasn’t been recycled.
Sustainable fashion has become a much more mainstream discussion in the fashion world. Brands and trends are now more and more heard of and, thanks to consumers, there is now the power to create a change and shift the idea of clothing being disposable and instead becoming a much more durable product.