Is the fashion industry going greener?
Sustainability is one of the hottest topics in every circle in the current era.
Many scientists are warning us about how we are running out of time to make our environment sustainable for future generations. Industries are racing to prove their credentials on sustainability. But what about the fashion industry? Are the big players going green? Have you ever looked at your wardrobe and wondered how sustainable your clothes are?
A simple glance at your receipts will tell you how much money you have spent. What they will not tell you, though, is the cost of your fashion items on the environment.
Why the fashion industry needs to go green
On one hand, at least 8-10% of global carbon emissions come from the fashion industry, which is more than what maritime shipping and international flights emit together.
On the other hand, according to the Environment Organization, the fashion industry ranks at number two when it comes to water consumption. How unsustainable is this? This amount of water is sufficient to fill the need of at least five million people.
And let’s not forget the harmful chemicals released during the production and transportation of the clothes… which are often delivered in non-biodegradable packaging.
Additionally, we are currently producing more clothes than we really need. According to The Source at Washington University, around 80 billion new clothing, worth $1.2 trillion, is purchased each year.
This increased consumption of fashion has created millions of textile waste in landfills, thus damaging the environment. The UK alone disposes of around 1m tonnes of textile, of which 20% ends up in landfills, and the rest is incinerated.
The fashion industry, especially fast fashion, is responsible for offering cheap garments at high volumes. This trend has increased the demand for water-intensive cotton and the dumping of untreated dyes into local water bodies.
The largest importer of second-hand clothes from the UK is Ghana, but at the moment, most of these clothes end up as rubbish. A consequence of the poor quality and high quantity of clothes produced by fast-fashion.
Almost 100 containers full of second-hand clothes arrive in the country every week. Simple maths will show you how much damage these clothes are doing to the environment.
With a lack of regulation and support, Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC) have fallen victim to this industry and have failed to curb the environmental and occupational safeguards.
Is the fashion industry going greener?
That negative impact of the fashion industry on the environment is felt across the globe, and consumers are raising their voices.
Consumers, especially millennials and Generation Z, are making big statements on this topic using their purchasing power. They want to know the production process and location of what they are buying. And they are willing to dig deeper into their pockets for brands with green labels.
As a result, smaller ethical fashion brands are gaining ground on the fast-fashion giants and there have been initiatives by the world’s top brands to reduce the negative impact on the environment by using renewable materials.
In 2011, H&M Group launched their Conscious Collection initiative to use recycled cotton or recycled polyester, and they accept unwanted clothes at any of their stores. This initiative will help reduce the number of unwanted garments and textiles from going to landfill.
In 2016, Adidas and Parley for the Oceans partnered to create shoes using reclaimed and recycled yarns and filaments from ocean waste and deep-sea gillnets.
On the other hand, Levis is using waterless technology in the production of their denim jeans. A move that is saving up to 96% of water denim requires. Their effort has saved up to 3b litres of water as well as recycling more than 1.5b litres.
Other small players in the market are not left behind and sustainable initiatives are growing. In Lebanon, for example, FabricAid is collecting second-hand clothes and distributing them to the underprivileged at affordable prices, thus reducing the number of clothes in the landfills.
The need for more to be done in going green
By the year 2050, the world population will increase by two billion. Without a proper eco-friendly blueprint, the adverse effects will increase drastically.
The actions from some of the small and big industry players are helping, but more is needed if we want to see sustainable results. The more we reduce the production of what we don’t really need, the closer we are to environmental sustainability.
We also need to get rid of our throwaway culture and start to embrace upcycling, in order to help reduce the amount of fabric ending up in landfills. Consumers need to keep mounting pressure on manufacturers and retailers to go green. Let’s pay more attention to the labels on our fashion items and only buy what we need.
The editorial unit