Being remarkably one of the industries that have been explored during the 21st century, fashion is considered as the sector that captures the most users’ interests over the internet.
For most, fashion is a well-being factor that shows up the stylish life that people are aiming to live. While for others, the fashion industry has a disastrous impact on the environment. In fact, it is the second largest polluter in the world, just after the oil industry.
And the environmental damage is increasing as the industry grows.
Unfortunately, a lot of us don’t know how our clothes were made or what they are made from. But without this vital knowledge, we consumers can be complicit in many of the fashion industry’s devastating environmental effects.
How fashion affects the environment?
1) Water pollution:
In fact, an ecologist Mark Browne conducted an alarming study in 2011!! After examining sediment along shorelines around the world, Mark found out that 85% of the human-made material found on the coastlines was composed of untreated toxic wastewaters produced from textiles factories and that are dumped directly into the rivers and oceans.
Wastewaters contain poisonous substances such us nylon, mercury, acrylic, arsenic, and many others. Most of these modern fabrics are actually made up of plastics. This means that when we’re washing our clothes, minuscule pieces of plastic tend to break off.
2) Fashion Industry is a major water-consumer:
A huge quantity of fresh water is used for the dying and finishing process for all of our clothes. As a reference, it can take up to 200 tons of fresh water per ton of dyed fabric, so on 1.5 Trillion of water is used by the fashion industry each year, while 750 million people in the world do not have access to drinking water.
Also, cotton needs A LOT of water to grow (and heat) but is usually cultivated in warm and dry areas. Up to 20,000 liters of water are needed to produce just 1kg of cotton.
This generates tremendous pressure on this precious resource, already scarce, and has dramatic ecological consequences such as the desertification of the Aral Sea, where cotton production has entirely drained the water.
3) Fashion Industry has a big carbon footprint:
No way for escaping reality, the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the fashion factories’ activities is colossal. Over 6 Kg, is the estimated carbon footprint for one single T-shirt which is more than 20 times its own weight.
Due to the energy used during the production, manufacturing, and transportation of the millions of garments purchased each year (1074 Billion kWh of electricity annually), this carbon footprint comes down to the great distances that our garments must travel from the place of production to our wardrobes.
Synthetic fibers (polyester, acrylic, nylon, etc.), used in the majority of our clothes, are made from fossil fuel, making production much more energy-intensive than with natural fibers.
Considering that the vast majority of our clothes are produced in China, Bangladesh, or India, countries essentially powered by coal, we’re wearing things made up with the dirtiest type of energy in terms of carbon emissions.
4) Fashion causes Rainforest destruction:
Every year, 70 Million trees are cut down to make out clothes: thousands of hectares of ancient forests are cut down and replaced by plantations of trees used to make wood-based fabrics such modal, rayon and viscose.
It is a well- known fact, that forest destruction represents a big threat to the ecosystem as Indonesia has lost more than 13 million Hectares of a tree during the past decades.
No trees mean soil erosion and that leads to soil degradation. The soil is an essential element of the ecosystem, as it is needed to absorb CO2 and for food production, that’s why soil degradation leads to a decrease of 30% in food production over the next 30 years if we continue the same way.
I think that these four points are correctly clarifying how fashion affects the environment.
Now you may ask, what can we do about it?
The answer is: switching our interests into Sustainable fashion. It is evident that no one can live without clothes, that’s why sustainable or eco-fashion is the perfect way to enhance the consumer’s awareness of social and environmental concerns on the clothing manufacturing sector.
What is Eco-Fashion?
The “official” definition of eco-fashion or sustainable fashion is a focus on clothing that takes into account not only the environment but also the health of the consumers who will be wearing the clothes and the working conditions of the people involved with making the clothes.
So, sustainable clothes are:
- Clothes made using raw materials such as cotton grown without the use of pesticides or silk made from worms raised on organic vegetation.
- Clothes made from recycled textiles, including creative use of materials such as recycled plastic.
- Clothes designed to be more durable so they last longer.
- Clothes made without the use of certain harmful chemicals, dyes or bleaches.
- Clothes made under conditions where workers are treated fairly and paid a fair wage for their efforts. Eco-fashion incorporates some human rights elements, especially how workers are treated who make the clothing.
When shopping for eco-fashion, there are some three critical things to consider.
First of all, how is the product made? Take into consideration the conditions surrounding production, such as working conditions, waste management, water consumption, and chemical usage and generally how it affects the environment.
Some sites will offer a company bio pledging their dedication to the environmental and social cause, so take advantage of this to do some research before you purchase.
Second of all, what is the product made of? Look out for organic cotton and sustainably-sourced materials. These cause minimum harm to the environment and can help to provide a future for the natural world.
Synthetic materials often require the use of many chemicals and pesticides in production. These chemicals may damage the local environment. The majority of organic cotton are also 100% biodegradable.
To sum up, the fashion industry takes a good part in devastating environmental effects. For this specific reason, it is essential for us as consumers to rethink our non-volunteer role in destroying our planet. Eco-fashion is the best alternative for this traditional industry in one way that its production process considers the health of the consumers and the environment.