By 2030, the world’s population is expected to reach nine billion people. This is a frightening forecast because nature is currently struggling to meet the demands we are making on her. A clean environment is essential not only for our health but also for the survival of all living things. Unfortunately, most consumer goods have a negative environmental impact.
The fashion industry is particularly problematic due to the fast paced change that it actively promotes. For anyone who loves buying clothes, being fashionable, having a variety of styles to work with, it’s difficult to resist the allure of fast fashion. However, discussions about the climate crisis made me look at the fashion industry in a different light, and rethink my shopping habits. This led to some startling revelations.
Uncovering the Fashion Industry
For starters, the fashion industry consumes more energy than shipping and aviation combined. It is estimated that it accounts for nearly 20% of wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions.
It’s not surprising when you think about it.
The fashion industry has a complex supply chain. There is the design stage, the sourcing of raw materials, the making of the garment, how the clothing is transported, and how it is disposed of when it is no longer desired. It is extremely labor-intensive, with an estimated 60 million people working in the industry globally.
The global clothing supply chain also uses tonnes of crops, water, chemicals, and oil.
The United Nations (UN) estimates that a single pair of jeans requires 7,500+ liters of water and a kilogram of cotton. That is approximately 10 years’ worth of drinking water for one person.
All of this used to have a negligible impact, but in the last 20 years, there has been an increase in demand for high volume, fast, and cheap consumption, also known as fast fashion. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the impact of your wardrobe on the environment.
Changes You Can Make to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Your Clothing
You, as a fashion consumer, are the last and most crucial link in the fashion supply chain. This gives you a lot of say in making the fashion industry more environment-friendly. You can take small but proactive steps to change the way the fashion and textile industries operate.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some things you can do to make the fashion industry more environmentally sustainable:
Be Slow to Throw Out Your Clothes
Before you throw away a perfectly good shirt, pair of jeans, or other fashion items, consider your other options, since the vast majority of them are made of non-biodegradable synthetic fiber and will end up in a landfill. Instead:
- You can donate your clothes to a charity, a neighbor, a family member, or a friend.
- They can be repaired in a way that would make a regency era seamstress proud. All you need is a little creativity, or YouTube. A quick “how to” search will almost certainly yield some interesting results.
- You can resell them secondhand. That item of clothing may no longer be your size or style, but if it is in good condition, there is bound to be someone who will get more use out of it.
If you absolutely must discard that item of clothing because it is beyond repair, do not place it in the regular garbage can. Fabrics can be recycled to make new clothing, so put them in the textile recycling bin.
Always Shop for Quality Clothes
One of the significant issues with fast fashion is that for clothing to be so inexpensive, something had to be sacrificed: quality. Is it any wonder that many fast fashion items begin to have holes in them or begin to look old after only a few wears? This means that fast fashion items have a higher turnover rate, which is terrible for the environment.
The good news is that you can take action. Stop purchasing low-quality items. If many people do this, fashion brands will be encouraged to improve the quality of their garments. It will also allow you to keep your clothes for more extended periods, which is beneficial to both the environment and your wallet.
Aim to Patronize Only Sustainable Brands
Sustainable fashion is a movement and design philosophy that promotes social and environmental responsibility. Sustainable fashion is defined as shoes, clothing, and other accessories manufactured and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account its socio-economic and environmental impact.
When you adopt conscious fashion (shop from eco-friendly designers), it leads to less strain on the planet’s resources as eco-friendly articles of clothing are made through sustainable practices. With this approach to fashion, a lower number of microfibers is launched into the environment. This also means that toxic waste is reduced, and one-of-a-kind clothing is produced.
The best part is that you don’t have to sacrifice style when shopping for eco-friendly brands. Sustainable fashion brands are gradually gaining a foothold in the fashion industry. These brands sell everything from African streetwear, to formal wear, to tribal clothing lines and hand-stitched fashion accessories.
Yes, you will often pay more for sustainable clothing, but you now know what’s hidden behind those meager prices offered by fast fashion.
Rethink Wash Days
The process of washing our clothes has a significant environmental impact. A standard wash cycle necessitates the use of both water and energy. So, here are some suggestions for mitigating its effect on the environment:
- Avoid dry cleaning or use green dry cleaners. Traditional dry cleaning uses harmful chemicals such as perchloroethylene.
- Do not tumble dry. Dryers consume a lot of energy, and clothes last longer when line-dried.
- Use cold water. 90% of the energy used to wash clothes is used to heat the water.
- Change to green detergent. Many conventional detergents contain ingredients that are harmful not only to your clothes but also to marine life.
- Wear it more than once. Except for your undergarments, most clothing items can be worn multiple times before needing to be washed.
- Wash full loads. Running full loads will save you money, energy, and water.
Better Living Through Sustainable Fashion
Climate change is the most severe threat to humanity and planet earth. Every day, we make decisions that impact the environment, the climate, and other species. You can choose to reduce your environmental footprint to make more room for all living things by taking responsibility for how your consumption of things like fashion contributes to global warming, then making changes to help reduce its impact.
Ethiopian-born and Dubai-based fashion designer Feiruza Mudessir discovered her curiosity to mix the traditional with contemporary at a young age, and this has become the trademark of her designs for Finchitua today. With her unique style standpoint, she served the VIP Color Forecast Panel 2017 for Al Jazeera Paints Company and VIP Color Forecast Panel 2019 for Asian Paints Berger. Ms. Mudessir is a shortlisted nominee for the prestigious Fashion Scout London 2018.