When did clothes become a throwaway commodity? Our reliance on cheap garments, made to mimic catwalk trends but last barely as long as the a/w season, is seriously harming the planet. In fact, the effect the fashion industry has on the environment is almost as bad as the effect of the oil industry.
The damage comes from many sources including the following:
- Water Consumption and Pollution
It takes a huge amount of water to dye fabric. In many factories a 1-30 dye to water ratio is common. Textile factories also pump their toxic wastewater directly into the nearest waterway. Sometimes these waterways are used by the local population for washing or even drinking.
- Synthetic Fibre Waste
Synthetic fibres are man-made and include nylon, polyester and acrylics. Most discarded clothes made from synthetic fibres end up in a landfill and take decades, if not centuries, to decompose.
- Microfibers Polluting Oceans
Every time we wash garments made from synthetic fibres, microscopic particles are released and make their way into our oceans where they seriously harm marine life.
- Chemical Pollution
A frightening range of chemicals is used in textile production. The cotton industry is notorious for its use of highly toxic chemicals. These chemicals not only pollute the production area’s soil and water but cause disease and premature death to cotton workers.
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The fashion industry is responsible for a staggering 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The industry uses huge amounts of energy during production and distribution, more than global shipping and aviation industries combined.
So what’s the solution? There’s no easy fix to an issue that’s been building since the Industrial Revolution but even small change can have a big impact. These companies are leading the way in fighting the environmental impact of throwaway fashion.
Companies Embracing Make Do and Mend
Environmentally conscious fashion brands are using the concept of “make do and mend” to protect the environment. But why buy a new garment when you can mend or repurpose something old?
Take scratched sunglasses. Companies like The Sunglasses Fix are cutting down on plastic waste by encouraging you to repair your glasses instead of replacing them. You can replace the lenses on almost any frames and their website is super easy to use. See them here.
Or what about jeans? Ksenia Schnaider’s denim brand creates new items from repurposed denim, turning flea market jeans into high fashion outfits.
Companies are Using Natural Fibres
Fashion brands are increasingly looking to use eco-friendly materials for their garments. Organic cotton is easier than ever to find in clothes shops, even on the high street. Just look for the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
London-based design company Thought, People Tree and Manchester’s Beaumont Organic all strive to work only with organic cotton. H & M’s conscious collection is a more affordable high street option. This Swedish apparel company hopes to make all of its clothing sustainable by 2030.
Companies are Using Renewable Energy
Another way fashion companies can massively reduce their environmental impact is by using renewable energy. Many fashion brands are finding ways to offset the huge amount of energy used by their factories and distribution networks.
Ecovibe Apparel is one such company and uses only Green e-certified renewable energy. Ecovibe Apparel also puts its money where its mouth is by donating 1% of their sales to non-profit organisations all over the world.
Amour Vert takes a slightly different approach by planting a tree for every shirt they sell. To date, they’ve planted around 140,000 trees.
But the award for biggest commitment to renewable energy has to go to Reformation. Reformation uses 100% wind energy in all its factories. It offers a clear summary of what kind of impact every item has on the environment. Knowledge is power! Learn more about sustainable fashion here.