– Teresa Madaleno:
Did you know that the fashion industry is the second largest industrial polluter after the aviation industry? You have likely heard about the environmental impacts of the textile and fashion industry since it has been widely publicized in recent years. While a number of brands, including well-known clothing manufacturers have stepped up with more sustainable practices, a study published in Nature Reviews Earth and Environment demonstrates how a major shift in the fashion business model is required to deal with the problem. One of the biggest issues outlined in the report is “fast fashion”, which is inexpensive clothing produced quickly for mass-markets to keep up with the latest trends. It means that we are frequent consumers but use garments for a short period of time and then throw them away. This creates a huge environmental footprint all along the supply chain – from water use, chemical pollution, carbon dioxide emissions and textile waste.While fashionista’s may not like it, the review calls for a shift in behavior not only among designers and manufacturer’s but also consumers. Essentially, we have to decrease clothing purchases and increase the life of garments. In other words, it is time to go back to slower fashion.
Here’s a fact that will help put the fast fashion industry waste into perspective: according to the review, fashion manufacturers are producing almost twice as much clothing today as they did 20 years ago. If this doesn’t startle you, think about the following:
• Fast fashion is responsible for 20 % of global wastewater
• At least 60% of all clothing produced in one year is thrown into landfills
• Many kids are forced into child labour in countries with fast fashion factories
To move into slow fashion, the industry would need to look at more sustainable practices, such as working with better quality materials, as they tend to last longer.
When we consider that the fashion industry has a very long supply chain, which begins with agriculture and chemical production and ends with the production of clothing through use of more chemicals, water, and energy, including transportation, it is easy to see how the damage quickly adds up.
Right now fashion consumption results in most textile waste landing in dumps or being incinerated. Some of it is exported to developing countries; however, someday soon those countries might reject textile waste just as they started doing with plastics in 2019.
It will take co-operation among industry leaders, designers, retailers, and consumers to make slow fashion workable. Such as transition to more sustainable clothing will take time so what can you do now? You can start by educating yourself and by doing your part even if it is small.
Here are some options:
• Stop purchasing fast fashion
• Start thrifting your clothes
• Shop sustainable brands
• Check out TEDx Talks and documentaries on fashion impacts
• Hold a fashion swap event with friends
There are many other creative approaches to fighting fast fashion, but hopefully these suggestions will give you inspiration to come up with some of your own ideas and thus do what you know is right for our planet.