Fashion is a part of everyone’s lives today. We are living in an era of visual representation online where “looking good” has become an essential part of our lives. The feel of new, store-bought designer clothes reels in the best of us and lures us to purchase more than we need or even want.
Today, the cost of fashion may not be too heavy on your pocket, but it is on the environment. This industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, about 1.7 billion tons per year, which is way more than the CO2 produced by flights and shipping. Dyeing and treatment of garments generate about 20% of wastewater.
Around 60% of synthetic fibres, like polyester, are made from fossil fuels, and of that 85% will end up in landfills, unable to decay or decompose. A huge number of microfibers are introduced into the water, which only adds to the already growing plastic pollution into the oceans and seas.
And, this is all been made worse by fast fashion that doesn’t even last a season. There was a time when an average shopper only purchased 12 items of clothing per year, but now, the average has crossed 64 per person.
Making fashion is now an environmental disaster, but all is not lost as there are measures that this industry is taking to minimize its carbon emissions or go completely carbon neutral.
Using sustainable raw materials
Allbirds, a New Zealand-American shoe brand, has set a fantastic example by using sustainable raw materials like wool, recycled plastic, castor bean oil, and Tencel. Everlane, an American clothing retailer, too, came up with carbon-neutral trainers, Tread, made from recycled plastic and rubber and full-grain leather.
Adidas introduced Futurecraft Loop, a line of fully-recyclable sneakers made using a single material and no glue. Each component is made from a 100% reusable material. So, once you are done with this sneaker, you can return it to Adidas, where it is washed and processed to make another brand-new shoe.
No waste created, nothing thrown away. Apparel brand Patagonia is widely known for its use of recycled polyester as a raw material for its products.
Like Adidas, a lot of brands are now working towards educating their customers about recycling their clothes and shoes.
Nudie Jeans, a Swedish denim brand, believe in repairing clothes rather than discarding them and patch up about 44,000 pair of jeans in a year. Several brands have collection points for garments, which are at the end of their life span and can either be recycled or resold for charity.
More and more retail shops are popping up around the world where people can buy second-hand good quality clothes for cheap or just rent new clothes for a period of time.
Off-setting the emissions
Allbirds, a few years back, announced that it was going 100% carbon neutral. They continuously measure the carbon footprint of their product. From the supply chain to manufacturing, they have cut down their energy usage and made the entire manufacture and supply process more efficient.
They fund various biodiversity projects that help them reduce their remaining carbon emissions by offsetting a tonne of carbon for every tonne it produces. Everlane has relentlessly worked towards eradicating plastic from its supply chain.
It also partnered with NativeEnergy to support its work with farmers in improving cattle grazing practices in American grasslands. Which, in turn, improves the health of the soil, cleans the waterways, and sequester carbon into the land.
Innovations for a greener planet
A natural fibre, like cotton, has a substantial environmental impact as well and requires a significant portion of the world’s pesticides. To combat this, designers, along with scientists, are coming up with new technologies and textiles that would counter the negative impact of fashion.
Fabrics are being made out of fast-growing carbon-sucking organisms, like microalgae, bacteria and fermented yeast. This technology converts sunlight and CO2 into raw materials, sucking the carbon out of the atmosphere, which is then used to manufacture our garments. Seaweed, biodegradable glitter, natural yarns, and apples are also being used as raw materials for fashion now.
Fashion conglomerates are making considerable strides in making this industry sustainable and more friendly towards the environment. But, their efforts in using alternate raw materials and mitigating their carbon impact can only take fruition when we take part in it as well. We need to get out of the traps of fast fashion and stop discarding our perfectly good old clothing in the face of it.
Buy garments and shoes that are made from natural or recycled materials, and don’t throw them away unless they are at the end of their lifespan. A lot of YouTube channels show how to reuse your piece of clothing and wear it entirely differently, try that.
There are endless ways where we can help and push the fashion the industry towards making more sustainable choices, but at the end of the day, it does boil down to us as end consumers and our preferences. So along with the industry, we need to make the right fashion choices as well.