Right on number one for the most polluting industry in the world is currently oil, but you might be surprised to find out the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry. In this blog I want to take you through the many aspects of sustainability in fashion and explain why we can be part of the problem as well as the solution.
The fashion industry is an enormous industry with a revenue of the global apparel market to be calculated to an amount to some 1.5 trillion U.S. dollars in 2021 and was predicted to increase to approximately 2 trillion dollars by 2026. The industry is huge and has many aspects where sustainability (or lack thereof) plays a big part.
It starts at the production of the clothing item, lets take a pair of jeans as an example. Cotton (the main material used for jeans) starts as a small plant where heavy chemicals are being used to improve growth which causes harm to the harvesters and locals. The process of making that small plant into a pair of jeans is water intensive, elektricity intensive and an exploitation of nature and people. It takes about 7,000 litres of water to make one pair or jeans to, for example, water the cotton plant or dye the jeans indigo blue. This pair of jeans is now completely ready, in Bangladesh. To ship the jeans from Bangladesh to all over the world takes a large amount of packaging and fuel. The jeans arrive on your doorstep, you wear it for a year and throw the jeans away along with all the resources used for production.
In recent years, consumers have become more aware than ever before and demand for organisations to be more sustainable. The need to account for this need for sustainability does come with some dangers, one of them being ‘greenwashing’. Greenwashing is nothing new, it is a term coined in 1986. The term refers to attempts made by businesses to appear environmentally conscious, when their business practices aren’t. Today, greenwashing is unfortunately common with many companies keen to cash in on customers’ growing interest in sustainability. But a quick Google search will show you the actual things companies are doing.
However, and this is a big however, the world has not come to an end yet and there is definitely still time to make a difference. As a response, more and more organisations are trying to improve their sustainability, and more sustainable brands are popping up to supply the demand for a slower fashion.
One example of a really sustainable organisation is MUD Jeans. This is one of the first completely circular business models. To produce their jeans they use less water, less CO2, and they recycle your old jeans. When you buy your responsible produced jeans you can wear them as long as you want and send them back for a discount on your new jeans. They also introduced the Lease a Jeans-Model where you can (as the name suggests) lease your jeans and send them back when you’re done. This is only one example of the many sustainable companies there currently are.
An argument of people who do not participate in sustainability is that sustainable brands can be more expensive than other brands. Whilst that sometimes may be true, there are ways that we can be more sustainable without spending more money than before. To make the fast fashion slower we can try to get as much out of the clothes we already have. When an item is broken, fix it instead of throwing it away. If you want to buy something new, try to buy vintage or try to buy something that you really love. Experts say that you should want to wear your daily clothes at least 30 times before you dispose of it (ideally by recycling it) and special occasion items for about 10 times.
In conclusion, the fashion industry is more polluting than some might expect and we should all take a look at the clothing we put on our bodies. Today, there are more sustainable brands than ever, but you should be aware that no greenwashing is happening. I do have faith in our generation, and I’m sure that together we can all help the world a bit.