In 2020, global retail clothing sales topped $1.5 trillion. That number equals the combined GDP of the world’s poorest 126 countries. Unsurprisingly, the fashion industry has a correspondingly huge carbon footprint. Responsible for some ten percent of global carbon emissions, the fashion industry puts out more carbon dioxide than all the airplanes in the world. But carbon output is only one of the ways in which fashion negatively impacts the environment. You can do your part to reduce your consumption by investing in slow fashion. Read on to discover how to make more ethical style choices.
The Problem with Mass Production
Technological advances have made the production of clothing (and everything else) faster and easier than our ancestors ever dreamed. Gone are the days when you had gotten lucky and discover a pearl in an oyster. Without leaving your easy chair, you can obtain a pearl necklace from The Pearl Source. You don’t even have to string them yourself. Pearls of all necklace lengths are yours with a few simple clicks. We now have instant access to an endless array of inexpensive and stylish apparel and accessories. Combine that with incessant messages to buy, buy, buy and it’s no wonder we succumb to the urge to shop, even when we don’t need anything. But such habits are no longer sustainable, either from the production side or the consumption side. It is imperative that both producers and consumers take a hard look at their habits and be willing to make changes.
Wear What You Own
Textile and clothing waste are shocking. Around 80 billion garments are produced each year, and some 80% of all clothing winds up in either landfills or incinerators. One of the worst offenders in this dilemma is ‘fast fashion.’ These are clothes that are cheaply made to match the latest hot styles and meant to be thrown away after being worn a few times, if that. The solution to this problem is easy: wear what you already own. When you do go shopping, start with consignment or secondhand stores before looking at new. Opt for durable items you can wear again and again. By investing in quality-made classics that never go out of style, you can cut down considerably on waste.
Be a Water Watcher
Although it isn’t immediately obvious, the textile industry uses a lot of water. It is also responsible for 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution. This is due in part to cultivation methods, such as growing cotton in climates that are not suited to it, increasing the need for irrigation and use of pesticides. Processing fibers also requires an immense amount of water. Jeans are a particularly thirsty customer. It can take 40,000+ litres of water to produce a single pair. More bad news about jeans: acid-washing and other popular treatments increase water waste. One simple step you can take is to purchase fewer pairs of jeans. Buy the plain, dark blue ones and keep them for a long time. Luckily, jeans never go out of style. To save even more water, wear your jeans more than once before tossing them into the wash.
Textile production is one of the most chemical-intensive industries out there. Although exact figures of chemical usage are difficult to come by, suffice it to say large amounts of toxic dyes, pesticides and other deadly chemicals including formaldehyde and heavy metals are dumped into the environment each year. This creates an unsafe situation for locals unfortunate enough to live near mills and it increases pollution worldwide. Polyesters are inexpensive and look sharp, but they require the use of petroleum and take hundreds of years to decompose. Microplastics are a huge concern for the environment. They wind up in our oceans, and eventually in our bodies. Synthetics also tend to harbor bacteria. This makes them smell bad after just a few wears to exercise class, and often leads to a faster trajectory into the waste bin. Natural fibers like hemp, linen, and bamboo are more sustainable in multiple ways. Production processes tend to be cleaner, and the fibers are not as harmful to the environment when disposed of. Before making any purchases, read labels before and choose natural fibres oversynthetics.
Small steps can add up to big changes. Think twice, or even thrice, before purchasing new, and when you do, invest in natural, quality items. You can make a difference.