“Sustainable”, “conservation”, “green”. These are words that have become rallying points for change in our day. The effects of industrialization and the economic practices of modern society are undeniable. And fashion, as amazing and expressive as it is, has unfortunately been a major contributor to environmental problems.
Many of the fabrics and materials used in clothing are harmful to the environment. Synthetic fabrics, like polyester, acrylic, and nylon, are mostly made from the refining of fossil fuels. That may be surprising, but you can look at the labels on your clothes to verify. Even natural fabrics like cotton are not exempt. In fact, a single item of clothing made from cotton uses thousands of liters of water in its production, from planting to final product. This article will look at why current fashion practices are unhealthy, why they need to change, and how we can make an effort to push for more sustainable and ethical clothing.
The Negative Effects Of Current Fashion Practices
The modern style of fast fashion has had a detrimental effect on the environment in many ways. The use of hazardous materials, not to mention the trend of purchase, discard, and purchase again in an endless cycle, is affecting the whole world. The need to produce as much as possible, at low prices, also has major effects on the communities where the products are made. Here are some of the negatives associated with modern fashion practices.
A Pandemic of Microplastics
Plastic fibers are prevalent in the making of many synthetic fabrics. Polyester, nylon, acrylic, and spandex are all made from plastic. Washing clothes made from these materials releases microplastics into the environment. Experts estimate that synthetic fabrics contribute to over a third of the microplastic pollution in the world’s oceans.
Less than one out of every hundred pieces of used clothing is recycled. The fibers in clothes wear out through repeated use and washing, so they cannot be used to make new clothes. As a result, they are discarded in landfills. While natural fibers will decompose in less than a year, synthetic fibers are not biodegradable. Clothes made from synthetic fibers can last up to 2 centuries.
The consequences of our consumption are numerous
At every step of production, the fashion industry has a negative impact on the planet. In fact, the fashion industry emits 1.2 million metric tons of CO2 in just production each year. Some 70 million tons of timber are used to make rayon, viscose and other fabrics. Almost a fifth of all water pollution is caused by the hazardous substances used in dyeing clothes. Nearly 100 billion metric tons of water are consumed in clothes making.
The effects are not only environmental. They are also social and economic as well. A majority of the world’s supply of fast fashion clothing comes from sweatshop workers in Third World countries. The competition to keep prices low and competitive means the factory workers’ wages are very low. Facilities are not safe, with long hours in deplorable conditions the norm. Fast fashion is cheap, but that is because the industry is built on exploited labor from developing nations. There are no rules governing working conditions, wages, or even age limits. Many of the workers are minors, and they are underpaid, overworked, and exposed to hazardous situations or health risks.
How Sustainability Is Improving Modern Fashion
The most influential products in fashion affecting the environment are synthetic fibers. From production to usage to the end of their life, synthetic fibers contribute to the effects of climate change.
The energy and resources used to produce synthetics are far greater than the requirements for natural or even recycled fibers. The concept of sustainable clothing finds solutions to fashion demand that do not have such an adverse effect. The materials used are more frequently natural or recycled fibers that do not strain the supply of resources like water. Chemical refining processes are also avoided, lowering the reliance on hazardous substances. Natural fibers are bred to create varieties that use less water and no fertilizers or pesticides to grow.
Why you should shift to Sustainable Clothing
The push towards sustainable clothing is an attempt to ethically satisfy the world’s need for fashion. Using eco-friendly materials in clothes production is just one aspect of sustainability. Finding eco-friendly clothes for women, men and children is becoming easier because the world is waking up to the facts. And the fact is, sustainability actually has an impact on every step of the supply chain, from the sourcing of raw materials through the end of the life cycle.