CUTTACK, INDIA. Have you recently added a new lot of clothes to your closet only because there was a sale? Did you buy a jacket, which otherwise wasn’t needed, but you got it anyway to brag your fashion-savvy sense? What seems to you like a simple shopping routine, in a larger context, extends a little more support to an industry that leaves the airline and shipping industry far behind in carbon emissions. Perplexed? Read on!
UNEP reports found that the fashion industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater and 10 percent of global carbon emissions. It is shocking yet true that it is way higher than all international flights and maritime shipping sectors’ carbon emissions.
The fast fashion industry is thriving on consumers’ never-ending desire for something new and fashionable. By large, apparel manufacturers, fashion designers, and garment makers have switched to mass production to churn out trendy sartorial needs. Often, they engage in processes that are detrimental to the environment’s health.
Here are three ways how your new clothes add to climate change. One would be amazed to know that every step of clothes making directly/ indirectly burdens the environment.
Draining and harming water resources
Globally, industries use water to clean products. The fashion industry consumes one-tenth of all of the water used industrially. One cotton shirt production needs around 3,000 liters. The UN estimates that a single pair of our favorite denim needs 1-kilogram cotton. Dry environments are conducive to the cotton crop. Thus, the production of 1kg of cotton needs 7,500–10,000 litres of water. It is equivalent to 10 years of drinking water for a person.
Meanwhile, toxic chemicals are used for textile dyeing. Approximately 20% of the wastewater worldwide is attributed to this process, which accumulates over time. Quite often, such untreated and extremely toxic water enters the oceans. It is alarming that around 90% of textile industries, including dye houses, release the waste straight into local freshwater bodies. It mainly holds true for such establishments having a presence in developing countries.
Menace by plastic microfibers
You are in awe of that synthetic apparel that you have bought recently. But do you know that around 35% of all microplastics come from such synthetic fabrics? Often, they are priced at a low cost and offer a cheaper price. Usually, producers use materials of inferior quality. To understand it better, let’s site an example. The composition of most of such fibers includes polyester, containing plastic, and their carbon emission is much higher than cotton.
Furthermore, plastic is slow to degrade in the ocean until a long time has passed. As fast fashion is short-lived when one discards such synthetic piece of apparel, and it somehow ends up in the sea, the plastic takes a long time to degrade. Further, when it at last breaks down, it generates a toxic substance. The marine ecosystem is gravely impacted by it. The possibility of removal of such plastic microfibers from the ocean bed is zero. And it leads to a vicious cycle of reaching our plate as seafood. Indeed, it’s not healthy food. Another way we become a medium of passing such waste into the ocean is by washing clothes containing plastic microfibers in our washing machine.
In 1890, viscose, also known as rayon, was introduced as a cheaper alternative to cotton. Made out of the wood pulp, it is a common cellulosic fiber. It uses toxic chemicals such as carbon disulphide. Besides, it involves unethical resourcing for the material. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that, subsequently, viscose causes more enormous greenhouse gas emissions.
57% of all discarded clothing reaches the landfills, and in later stages, such waste is shifted to another area for incineration. From such burning practices, a significant amount of toxic substances and poisonous gases are released. Despite new technology creating filters to capture the pollutants, they remain present and are often turned into a dangerous substance, which later returns to the landfills and pollutes our air.
In 2019, the UN launched the Alliance for Sustainable Fashion to coordinate international efforts to reduce environmental hazards caused by the fashion industry.
A significant fast fashion segment comprises millennials and Gen Z who buy them to flaunt on their social media handles. For them, Digital Fashion fits the bill. It offers one ensemble which exists only in digital form instead of physical. Fabricant and Carlings are two names paving ways in digital fashion.
One of its core founding ideas of Fabricant is to make fashion sustainable by harnessing technology to reduce the environmental impact of garment creation.
“When you work with a digital collection, you can create as many as you want. However, it has to be something that the user really either wants to show off, or an item that the user wouldn’t dare to buy physically, or couldn’t afford to buy physically,” Ronny Mikalsen, Carlings, Brand Director, had stated.
How to be fashionable in an environmentally sustainable way?
You can get new clothes without buying one. Wondering how? Consider the pro tip by Carry Somers, Founder and Global operations director of Fashion Revolution. According to her, “We can hire. We can rent. We can swap. Or we can invest in clothes which are made by artisans, which have taken time and skill to produce.”
- Biocouture, or fashion made from more environmentally sustainable materials, is getting bigger
- A few brands to manufacture the textiles are considering using waste generated from wood, fruit and other natural materials
- Alternative ways of dyeing are gaining momentum, along with a search for easily bridgeable materials.
- Meanwhile, as an online consumer of fast fashion, be watchful of what you really want. According to the World Bank, 40% of clothing purchased in some countries is never used.