Go green: Here’s why sustainable fashion is the need of the hour
The environmental cost of fashion has increased due to the ‘fast fashion’ culture of cheap, trendy clothing that doesn’t last long. In our second article on sustainable fashion, we offer some tips on how to make purchases that will save the planet
Ask someone to visualise pollution and one would witness a wide range of responses - ranging from oil spills and coal power-plants to smog and plastic waste.
Seldom would people identify the clothes they wear as a source of pollution. Yet, in 2015, textiles production led to 1.2 bn tonnes of CO2 emissions, which is more than that of maritime shipping and international flights, combined. Textile dyeing and associated activities contributed to 20% of all industrial water pollution. (McArthur Foundation, A New Textiles Economy)
The environmental cost of fashion has increased exponentially during the ‘fast fashion’ culture - cheap, trendy clothing that doesn’t last long, are popular.
Brands are increasing the number of collections they produce per annum while consumers are buying more clothes than they need. The result? Barely-worn clothes ending up in landfills and over 50% of fast fashion products are disposed within a year.
At this rate, by 2050, the fashion industry could use up over a quarter of the carbon budget to limit the global temperature increase to 2-degrees Celsius. If the status quo continues, the world is headed for disaster. The fashion industry needs to move away from a fast fashion mindset to one of thoughtful production and consumption.
COVID19: A wake up call
With a sudden decline in consumer demand due to the COVID19 pandemic, it is no surprise that many brands have faced losses and are unable to sell their existing inventory. However, it is the garment workers who have paid the heaviest price for the decrease in demand.
Dozens of global brands have cancelled orders to factories in the developing world - Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Cambodia, among others - largely without any financial penalty. This means that the garment workers have not received wages for months.
This tragic situation serves as a wake-up call to turn the fast fashion model on its head. Fast fashion is not just polluting for the environment, it is also based on the exploitation of those who make those clothes. If nothing else, the COVID19 crisis has demonstrated that sustainability and social justice go hand in hand in the fashion industry, and there is much to improve on both aspects.
While the world looks forward to getting business back to usual post the COVID19 pandemic, it is imperative for the fashion industry not to go back to business as usual in some ways. Fashion giants and upcoming brands must pivot and deploy a triple bottom line approach in their operations - catering not just to profits, but to their people and to the planet as well.
Save the planet with the right purchases
Shifting to sustainable fashion globally is a mammoth task and requires work on multiple levels including government policy and corporate strategy. However, that’s not to say that individual actions don’t matter.
Consumer preferences play a huge role in shaping brands’ offerings and holding them accountable to goals around sustainability.
Here are some tips on what you can do to create a positive environmental impact with your fashion purchases:
● Don’t take brands’ claims at face value. Read the labels and pay attention to details. If they’re not there, ask for them. Comedian Hasan Minhaj did a segment on fast fashion in his show, The Patriot Act. He talked about how he saw a big brand advertising a garment as recycled polyester, but when he read the tag only 10% of the fabric was actually recycled. Such ‘greenwashing’ is rampant.
● Ask brands for greater transparency, not just in their raw materials but also in their supply chain to ensure that garment workers are being paid fairly.
● Support small businesses as they are more likely to share information about their practices.
● Finally, buy only what you need. The most sustainable garment is the one you already own. If you have to buy garments, then purchase from a sustainable brand, whenever possible.
Edited by Asha Chowdary