In short cheap clothes – less quality – child labour – death of climate. We believe because we spend less on clothes we save but over a lifetime we spend more on fast fashion than we would if we were to invest in higher quality garments. 60% of our clothing isn’t bio-gradable so will spend 200 years in landfill. With complex supply chains most have no idea where, when, what, how and who is making their clothing…
The early noughties the era where fast fashion begins to take over the fashion world, to now 20 years on and most people have no idea where our clothes are made, who is making them, how they’re so cheap and what to do about this problem. It’s not seen as a problem when you can get the next catwalk-esque styles straight to your wardrobe for a fraction of the price just days after you have watched the show. Entire generations are now used to getting what they want and not caring about the consequences because it’s hidden from them. Almost all major retailers value profit over climate, fashion got taken from art to a business model that abuses resources just like the fuel industry, agricultural industry and transport industries.
It’s now vital that consumers and the industry educate themselves and understand you don’t need a 100 different outfit combinations to be ‘chic’. Some major retailers are promising by 2040 they’ll be carbon positive but it isn’t enough consumers will be starting to notice smaller brands that are emerging into the market which are already carbon positive therefore showing the Topshops of the highstreets that they need to change or die out.
‘Good for you’ is a consumer platform to guide you through brands based off their environmental impact, labour and animal welfare practices; however not many brands are transparent in their process because child-labour (there are approximately 246 million child-workers in Asian-Pacific regions through to Africa.) and environmental abuse are still massive parts of our ‘cheap fast fashion’. When longevity becomes more fashionable than new styles our wardrobe emissions will be 44% lower, this will mean more trusted supply chains, smaller production, tradional techniques, local materials and less seasonal clothing.
How the industry and the consumer is destroying our planet.
The fashion industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions. Most of our clothes are produced in India, China or Bangladesh where the majority of factories are still powered by coal. Leading to clothes being made with the dirtiest type of carbon emissions. Not to mention the amount these textiles will have to travel.
More than 1900 chemicals are used in clothing production and 165 of these the EU classifies as hazardous. Dying 1kg of cloth can use 150 litres of water which will then be filtered back into our waterways. 20% of cloth created is industry waste. 2% of climate change impact comes from transportation. Only 15% of clothing in the western world is recycled/donated. In 2015 the industry consumed 79 billion cubic metres of water, 1715 million tons of CO2 emissions and 92 millions tons of waste by 2030 these will increase by 50%. In 2 decades consumption of clothing increased by 40% per person. Soil degradation caused by overgrazing sheep/goats for grazing, from chemicals in the cotton and deforestation. This means we won’t have healthy soil for food production to then absorb CO2 and in the US alone in 2030 the apparel industry will produce 4.9 gigatons of caron dioxide. European clothing consumption increased from 33 % in 2004 to 87 % in 2012. The main exporters to the EU are China, Bangladesh, Turkey, India, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Why fabric selection is an import process
Nylon/ Polyester made from petrochemicals with synthetics that are non-biodegradable. Manufacturing this creates nitrous oxide (x310 more potent than CO2). Polyester uses large amounts of water cooling and will contaminate the water. Making this cloth clear to stay away from. Polyester is still used in 16% of fibres in clothes.
Recycled polyester seems like a viable options but during the process of recycling and general wearing/washing; micro plastics will be released into our ecosystems. The New York Times writes: “Even if these microplastics are trapped at filtration plants, they can end up in sludge produced by the facilities, which is often sent to farms to be used as fertilizer. From there, the fibres can make their way into other water systems, or into the digestive tracts of animals that graze on the fertilized plants.” Every year approximately half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres from washing clothes end up in the ocean.
Cotton is grown and known for being a crop that uses the most pesticides and herbicides in the world; which kill/injure people. It uses a large amount of agricultural land (2.5% overall and 3% global water) stopping locals growing food. Cotton isn’t known for its toll on human health and it’s low profit margins for farmers but it should. Organic cotton requires more land but still requires chemicals to produce. cotton contributing excessively to water scarcity and wool to greenhouse gas emissions. Cotton is used in 43% of clothes. To grow enough cotton for just an un-dyed t-shirt, you need 257 gallons of water.
Rayon, Tencel & Modal
Rayon, Tencel and Modal made from wood pulp. Is slightly more sustainable but thousands of hectares of ancient forests are cleared/displayed to make the pulpwood plantations. The trees are planted in eucalyptus which uses a lot of water. The wood pulp is then treated with soda, carbon disulphide and sulphuric acid. Which cause serious health problems. Wood based fibres make up 9% in our clothes.
Linen is made from the flax plant which can be grown on rough agricultural land unsuitable for food production. It can be made without chemicals which is more common when production is in Europe. However there’s a high amount of water pollutants making their way into our ecosystems.
Wool sheered from the sheep isn’t vegan however it’s environmentally friendly and extremely beneficial. Despite not being vegan the environmental toll on polyester and synthetic cloths are more damaging to the ecosystems. Methane emissions are produced from the sheep burping. Most sheep are raised on non-arable land also.