In a sentence? Sustainable fashion is the production of garments and accessories in a way that is environmentally and socioeconomically sustainable. By sustainability we mean the processes’ ability to cut out toxic chemicals, pollution, and wasted materials in an effort to reduce overall global pollution.
Because fashion is the third most polluting industry in the world and one of the largest consumers of water, it’s more important than ever that people in and outside of the industry take a closer look at what’s going into their garments.
Making fabric uses water, energy, chemicals and other resources that most people don’t think about or ever see.
Out to Sea - Fashion may be the third most polluting industry, but its second in terms of the consumption and pollution of water because the processes involved in making clothes require extreme amounts of H20. For example, producing one pair of jeans uses over 1,000 gallons of water. In China alone, the textile industry pumps out more than 3 billion tons of wastewater per year.
Up in the Air – Fashion is art and history and fun. However, its sadly also fueling the global climate crisis. The production process emits CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Cotton, leather, and other raw materials that are grown in industrial farms create huge energy footprints. On the other hand, man-made fabrics like polyester and nylon emit harmful volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxide. Nearly half of the ready-to-wear products Americans buy are manufactured in China, where the textile industry emits 3 billion tons of soot each year, impacting human and environmental health.
Land Language – Textile of production uses over 20 billion pounds of chemicals a year. There are over 2,000 different chemicals commonly used in the manufacturing process. Over 1600 of those chemicals are used in the dying process alone, however only 16 of them are EPA approved. Americans throw away over 14 million tons of textiles a year and over 99% of those clothes could be recycled or reused in some way. However, the majority ends up in a landfill where they take up to 200 years to biodegrade.
What are people doing?
The Global Fashion Agenda, which organized the 2019 Copenhagen Fashion Summit, released in their annual Pulse of Fashion Industry Report that the pace of progress towards sustainability in the fashion industry has slowed down despite the growing interest and awareness around the subject.
If it doesn’t get back on course soon, “fashion will continue to be a net contributor to climate change, increasing the risk that the Paris Agreement’s objective of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius during the remainder of this century will not be achieved.”
To deliver on a 1.5C temperature goal, urban consumption emissions must fall by at least 50 per cent by 2030, the analysis adds.
What can you do?
The good news is that up to 2/3 of a garment’s carbon footprint happens after you take it home. That means you can fix a lot of the pollution the fashion industry caused.
Consumption-based emissions from clothing and textiles could be slashed by almost 40 per cent if people cut their individual buying habits to just three new items of clothes per year. The stats would be even better if those three items were from a sustainable clothing line, like Recommence.
Also, a super simple way to make a difference is to only wash as needed. Not only will this save water, energy and detergent, but it also makes your clothes last much longer. An extra eco effort? Wash on cold and skip the dryer.