More than 4 times as much clothing was produced in 2019 compared to 2000. And that’s not a good thing. The fashion industry is after oil the most polluting industry in the world. But what is so polluting about the fashion industry? And how are famous brands improving on sustainability? 

 

Polluting industry 

There are several reasons why the fashion industry is not sustainable. The first reason is because of carbon dioxide emissions. Production and transport cause carbon dioxide emissions. While producing clothes, a lot of carbon dioxide is emitted. 60% of fashion is produced in developing countries. The clothes need to be transported to countries all over the world. 

Secondly, spinning raw materials into yarns, weaving them into fabrics and applying finishing techniques such as dyeing or giving the fabrics strength and shine are energy-intensive processes in which large amounts of water and chemicals are used. More than 1900 chemicals are used in the production of clothing, of which 165 the EU classifies as hazardous to health or the environment. Not only for spinning the raw materials is water needed, but also for cotton plants to grow. To illustrate how much water is used in the whole process: to make one pair of jeans, 10.000 liters water is needed. To take a shower, you will 49 liters on average. 

Also, in the western world, we produce a lot of garbage. Compared to 18 years ago, the average person buys 60% more clothing items and keeps them for half as long. Pieces of clothing are less worn and we buy more. This leads to enormous amounts of waste and garbage. Processing all this waste is an energy-consuming process. 

 

Brands that are more focused on sustainability

Consumers are becoming far more environmentally aware, and some of the world’s biggest brands are struggling to keep up with the pace of this change, but they are trying. I will tell you about how big brands are improving in the area of sustainability. 

  1. LEVI’S: Levi’s focuses on the finishing processes to remove water wherever possible with its Water
  2. H&M conscious: Each item in the Conscious collection has an aspect that mitigate its environmental impact, like organic cotton or recycled polyester. The best part is that the styles start at just $10 so you don’t have to spend a fortune on sustainable fashion. 
  3. Adidas: For more than 20 years, Adidas has quietly and consistently worked to become a more sustainable brand. Company-wide ambitions include cutting in half the amount of water its apparel material suppliers use and phasing out the use of virgin plastic from all its products, stores, and offices around the globe by 2020. Adidas is also on target to cut its waste in half and trim its key suppliers’ energy consumption by 20 percent.
  4. Zara: Fast fashion retailer Zara is going green. By 2023, ensuring the use of 100% sustainable cellulosic fibers for responsible viscose, the absolute eradication of single-use plastics, and complete adoption of green-only packaging. And before the end of 2025, collections created out of 100% sustainable cotton and linens and 100% recycled polyester, as well as zero landfill waste from its facilities, and achieving 80% renewable energy use for its HQ, distribution centers, and stores.

 

Shocking facts

  • We wear a fashion item on average seven times.
  • In the Netherlands, we throw away 235 kilograms of textile per year.
  • 60% of all clothing produced ends up in incinerators or landfills within 1 year of being made.
  • Only about 1% of textile waste is truly recycled. 
  • With current technologies, it would take 12 years to recycle what the fashion industry creates in 48 hours

 

I hope this information and facts will make you more aware of how polluting the fashion industry is. And maybe, try to be more sustainable yourself. You can go to second-hand shops instead of the fast fashion stores. Also, there is a simple rule to make more sustainable clothing choices: the "30 wear rule". The idea: before you buy a piece of clothing, consider whether you can and want to wear it at least 30 times. If yes, do so, if not, do not. Saves a lot of unnecessary waste. Together, we can make the world a little bit better and it starts with yourself. 

 

QUESTION THEME WEEK

The question related to this blog is: How many t-shirts can be made from the water in an Olympic swimming pool? Send your answer to mediateam@marug.nl or DM marug_groningen on Instagram and maybe you win an amazing sustainable prize!