How to Understand Sustainable Fashion

Model Green Grass Flowers Pink Dress

Fashion is a huge business. It represents one of the world’s biggest industries.  At the same time, it is probably one of the most polluting. For this reason the industry must make some serious changes if it is to reduce the damage it is causing.

Everyone loves fashion.  We spend a lot of our hard- earned cash on new fashion trends, or buying other fashion items to wear at functions or to play at an Intertops Casino Red event.  Fashion contributes hugely to the global economy.   

Annual revenues reaching well over $1 trillion is truly a significant amount.   At the same time the fashion industry is considered one of the highest users of natural resources in the world.  It is time to turn the fashion industry into a sustainable enterprise. How can we do this and why is this so important?

Being sustainable means taking care of today’s needs but also making sure that the needs of the future are also being looked after.

Sustainable fashion is important for everyone involved in the fashion industry, beginning with the farmers all the way through to the consumer and even beyond, to the recycling plants.

Sustainable fashion is so important because the fashion industry impacts so many people and communities worldwide.  With the fashion industry’s massive climate change footprint and the huge problem of climate change to our civilization, the industry must take the necessary steps to change the way it works and use more sustainable methods.

By addressing these issues now, we are ensuring that the industry can continue in the future.

Is zero waste possible?

As we have said, the fashion industry is by far one of the biggest polluters worldwide.  It is the case, however, that some companies have stated that their new goal is to be 100 percent circular, waste free, by the year 2030.  It would be quite an achievement for the industry to reach a situation of zero waste. 

This is an important aim. It is crucial for the fashion industry to move towards sustainability.  The waste issue is hugely important but it is not going to cure all the ills in the fashion industry.  The issue of consumption also needs to be addressed, and radically reduced.  Developing a circular economy is incredibly exciting but there are also other important areas to look at.

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Sourcing sustainable materials

At London Fashion Week designers are banned from using real animal fur on the catwalk.  This followed the announcement by certain well- known brands like Versace, Gucci and Burberry to not use fur.  In addition, brands like Adidas and G-Star Raw have begun using ocean plastic for their products. In fact, Adidas sold well over one million from their Parley collection in 2017. 

Sourcing sustainable materials is really important. However, most of the materials used in the fashion industry today are not sustainable but are in fact the opposite, resource intensive.

Fabrics, such as cotton need a massive amount of water. Polyester which is one of the many synthetic materials developed use oil which is a non-renewable resource. The creating of materials such as viscose are causing deforestation which impacts the environment and threatens the existence of certain species and ancient trees.

If the fashion industry wants a future, then it must address these issues and move towards researching and developing more sustainable materials. This will help the industry and, ultimately, save the planet.

The resources at the rate we are using them will just be completely depleted.

Blonde Model Green Sweater
Photo: Deposit Photos

The problem of waste 

To produce one cotton shirt it requires approximately 3000 litres of water. How then can the water waste incurred in the clothing sector be decreased?

The issue of waste is a huge problem for the fashion industry. Billions of items are being produced and manufactured each year. We buy more than we have ever bought and dispose of them very quickly. Consumers dispose of huge amounts. This waste finds itself in landfills or being burnt. Either way is not a sustainable way of doing commerce.

It is not efficient to have to burn waste nor is it possible to continue burying our waste in landfills or shipping all the old clothing overseas.  All are poor ways of using resources.

We all need to take our share of the responsibility for waste. And the time is now.

Water waste is probably the most pressing problem.  The Aral Sea, once a huge lake is really no more, mainly because of cotton farming. Fortunately, today there are ways to dye clothes without water. A really exciting development.

There are new and exciting technologies being introduced to the life of clothing, from the beginning to end.

Some brands are taking responsibility for their old clothing by accepting them back into their stores. There is a lot of research being done on developing technologies to recycle fibers. These would change the way materials are used and would affect the way we purchase clothes.  Trials are being done whereby fibers are being restored to their original chemical components after which they are re-spun to make new items and promote recycling.

Many brands are exploring the use of new materials which imitate leather. Materials taken from the skin of oranges and grapes that can be developed in a lab and eliminates the use of real animal skins.  

There is a growing market for used clothing. It is generally accepted to rent or exchange clothes.  It has become somewhat hip to acquire second hand clothing, and many people are interested in visiting ‘vintage’ stores, for instance. 

Things are improving and awareness of waste is growing.  In the UK in 2016 300,000 tones of clothing became ‘waste material’.  This led to an investigation by the UK Environmental Audit Committee.  They specifically looked into the impact of ‘fast fashion’ on the environment.

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Changing consumer behavior 

Almost everyone loves fashion. It is an important way to express your individuality and to have some fun at the same time.  Celebrating self is something that should not be curtailed.  However, people are generally unaware of the impact their choices in fashion are making on the environment.  There is little information made available to them.  However, once they do learn about the issues involved many people do change their behavior as consumers.

Sometimes just seeing a message or post on social media can trigger people to question their behavior and to think a little about sustainability.   They may begin to think about whether they need a particular item or to question how and where it was made.  On their next shopping trip they may be better informed and make different choices.

It is important to get people interested in the issues, not from a place of guilt but more from knowledge and understanding. Giving people the information they need to make informed choices.

The future of the fashion industry 

If things don’t change, within 30 years the fashion industry will be responsible for around a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions.

Concerns of climate change, lack of water and land issues will likely impact the fashion industry.

The fashion industry is highly globalized, characterized by its services and flow of goods.  Its impact on the environment is huge but only recently has this become considered worthy of discussion by those in power.   People see fashion, and fashion shows as a bit of fun, something to enjoy and don’t consider the consequences behind the production and the industry.  It is in fact so wide ranging and affects us all. We all wear clothing whether we are fashionistas or not.

Climate change is on the rise. Factories are disposing of billions of products yearly, many made from synthetic materials which will not degenerate for perhaps hundreds of years.

Sustainable fashion is definitely now on the table of those who have the power to make changes.   Many are interested and pushing for investment in research and innovation.  However, there are those who are lagging behind.  It may be necessary to introduce regulations to enforce certain behaviors.  Fashion brands also need to become more vocal. Share the issues with their customers and become more transparent. 

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