Guest post on ‘What’s your impact’

I was given the opportunity to contribute to ‘what’s your impact’ blog site ‘The Eco Guide’. The Eco guide aims to educate people on the fight against climate change. Offering information and tips on various topics, on how each individual can make small or large changes to their every day life to help sustain our Earth by lowering their carbon footprint. It was a privilege to contribute to this wonderful organization. Below is a link to their website and a copy of my post.

Guest post

What’s your impact

Eco-fashion, the fashion industry’s answer to help combat climate change?

There is a strong relationship between fashion and climate change, the fashion industry has a direct impact on our environment. The billion dollar fashion and apparel industry is the one of the largest polluters of our clean water supply. The fashion industry uses extensive amounts of the Earth’s natural resources, such as water (second largest industry user of water) cotton and other raw materials. Approximately 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used throughout the globe to turn raw materials into the textiles that are used to make our clothes and accessories. As a result this industry is a primary source of greenhouse gas emissions, including Carbon dioxide (CO2) which as we know is a principle source of global warming, which is rapidly changing the globes climate. Understanding the ‘supply chain’ is essential in recognizing where and how various factors of the fashion industry are contributing to dramatic environmental damage and as a result accelerating the rate of which climate change is occurring. The supply chain describes, the use of millions of people, various environments and natural resources. As the supply chain is the process that turns raw materials into the finished product, the process that makes a designers vision into an object displayed in a store or on-line. It is one of the longest and most complicated industrial chains in the manufacturing industry. Changes across this supply change can and are needed to be changed to lessen the impact on our environment and to also enhance the well being of the people working and the various ecosystems along this chain which are being subjected to pollution directly and indirectly, such as the waste polluting water sources from textile waste during unsustainable manufacturing procedures.

Fast facts about this billion dollar industry’s impact on the environment:

  • Next to the food and beverage industry, clothing and accessories are purchased most often and replaced the most frequently.

  • 60 billion kilograms of fabric is outputted annually.

  • 132 million metric tons of coal is used each year through the production of natural and synthetic fibers, dying and bleaching of garments.

  • The fashion industry uses six to nine trillion liters of water each year.

  • Cotton is the worlds most commonly used natural fiber and is nearly 40% of our clothing. Cotton is also the worlds largest pesticide consuming crop.

  • On average, 150 grams of pesticides and other agriculture chemicals are used to produce the cotton for just one T-shirt.

  • Each year, over 90 million items of clothing end up in various land fill sites.

  • Annually, over 70 millions trees are logged to be transformed into various fabrics.

  • Plastic microfibers shed from our synthetic clothing, enter our water systems and attribute to 85% of the human made material found along shorelines, effecting marine Eco-systems.

  • The Fashion industry is the second largest polluter to freshwater water systems across the globe.

  • A quarter of the chemicals produced on earth are used for textiles.

  • Over 150 billion garments are produced each year, which is enough to provide every person on this planet with 20 new garments annually.

Many of us do not acknowledge where our clothing comes from and take fashion for granted. As the fashion industry has been around for a very long time, it is extremely important culturally, historically, religiously and socially. Therefore, fashion has many important attributes. As such, fashion is a leading platform globally, so it is essential to our planet that the fashion industry is sustainable and lessens its impact on the environment and reduces its carbon footprint. The fashion industry has the global platform, to endorse and promote sustainability. This industry has the power to change through education on the importance of sustainability and green living. Preserving fashion for future generations by conserving our natural resources.

Eco-Fashion is a term which is thrown around more and more frequently, so what is Eco-fashion? Eco-fashion is a social responsibility which will help reduce human impact on the environment, and reduce fashions impact on climate change. This can be achieved by designers and brands making the switch to environmentally friendly materials, and by also changing the methods of the production to that which is socially and environmentally ethical. This can be achieved by making clothing from recycled materials, or from materials that are produced by environmentally sustainable methods. The health of the consumer wearing the clothes is an another essential factor of Eco-fashion, as well as the well being of those making these clothes, ensuring that their working conditions are safe and environmentally friendly. Sustainable fashion is becoming more prevalent. There are various types of brands and designers who are branded as Eco-fashion and target a wide range of audiences, these vary from high end fashion, chain stores (fast fashion) to local boutiques. Examples include:

  • Stella McCartney: This is a vegetarian based company, aiming to use responsible resources and materials to lessen their impact on the environment.

  • MadeFAIR: An on-line retailer who strive to make ethical, sustainable, and Certified Fair Trade clothing and accessories.

  • Fair trade winds: A company which use environmentally sustainable products and support artisans, farmers, and craftspeople from various Countries.

  • Symbology: A company who employs women artisans from India and the West Bank. Who work with textile arts worldwide and fuse them with modern designs to create inspired,unique pieces, with each individually telling story of empowerment.

  • Fibre atheltics: This company use organic and recycled materials in all of their products.

  • Shift to nature: A company which only source products from Designers and Labels whose mission is to produce ethical, Eco, sustainable products. These brands create clothes from Global Organic Textile Standard Certified Organic Cotton (GOTS) and Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified Bamboo.

  • Freedom of animals: A unique sustainable and cruelty-free luxury bag line.

  • H&M conscious collection: H&M is making the switch to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly, their starting point is the desire to make more sustainable fashion choices available, affordable and attractive to as many people as possible.

These examples are just a few of the Eco-fashion brands that exist, there are even more Eco-fashion brands found around the world, we can all do some research to find an environmentally friendly brand that is near where we live and what suits us all individually. It is vital that we are all fashion conscious and are aware of what we are wearing on our bodies. The consumers of the fashion world have a voice, each of us can shop sustainable and reach out to those fashion brands who are not environmentally conscious and suggest they make changes that will protect our earth for our future generations.

Studies have illustrated that over the whole life cycle of a piece of clothing, from the manufacturing of raw materials to the disposal of that item, the CO2 emissions on average add up to more than 10 kilograms! As consumers we all have the power to enjoy and embrace guilt free fashion. Here are a few suggestions to wear with care, and make the switch to green fashion, by following these tips each of us can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

1. Limit your clothes:

Research has shown that the carbon footprint of a t-shirt is estimated to be approximately 6 kilograms, around 20 times its own weight! Ask yourself, how many clothes do you actually need? Ensure that your wardrobe is trans seasons. Meaning, make sure the clothes that you buy last over multiple seasons and can cross over into all seasons.

2. Recycle:

Recycling is extremely important when reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Even by recycling 1 kilogram of used clothes will help to reduce up to 3.6 kilograms of CO2 emissions. Detox your wardrobe, and when clearing out unwanted clothes make sure that these do not end up in landfill. Recycling clothing will help conserve raw materials and natural resources that have already gone through the supply chain, this will eliminate the use of 6000 liters of water, 300 grams of fertilizers and 200 grams of pesticides, required to start from scratch. Donate to charitable organizations such as goodwill and the salvation army, this will also provide to those in need, strengthening the community. Another way to recycle is to swap clothing with friends and family, you could make a fun spring cleaning event out of this.

3. Buy Vintage:

Buy your clothes from second hand stores. Keep clothes that have already been made in circulation, therefore these natural resources that have already been used do not go to waste. Fashion trends continue to pop up within vintage clothes, as they hold a unique history and have quality materials. Studies show that by extending the average lifespan by active use of an item of clothing by as little as three months, can reduce the carbon, waste and water footprint by 5-10 percent.

4. Buy local.

It is estimated that 60 percent of global clothing is manufactured in developing countries. Clothes are then placed in shipping containers and disperse around the world via various transportation methods such as planes, trains and trucks. It is not known how much fuel is used, however research suggests that 22 million new clothing items are brought by American’s annually with one 2 percent of which is domestically manufactured. Therefore around 90 percent of garments travel for thousands of miles, burning fossil fuels along this journey to reach the retailer. Keep business within your community, check the label to understand where these clothes have been manufactured. Ensure working conditions are suitable, that workers domestically and internationally are not being exploited. Local and quality materials are used, and the production methods are sustainable.

5. Slow fashion over fast fashion

Fast fashion is a dangerous trend. Sure, it may seem cheap and up to date with the ‘latest’ trends. However fast fashion is placing a large cost on our environment and future. Overall, consumers are spending less but buying more frequently. Hazardous chemicals are driving fast fashion production, as synthetic and inorganic materials are being used, which produces a large source of carbon emissions. Fast fashion clothes are made in abundance with constantly changing designs and styles therefore fast fashion clothing is disposable. It is estimated that in American each year, 10-13 million tons of clothes are dumped into landfill, releasing toxic chemicals into our soil and water. Avoid the trap of fast fashion, it exploits both domestic and overseas workers, ensures a decline in local production and is straining our natural materials and resources. Invest in quality over quantity.

6. Use sustainable washing techniques

During a single t-shirts life cycle, approximately 75% of its carbon footprint will be caused from the consumers machine washing and drying techniques, by being conscious of how you wash and dry your clothes can dramatically reduce this figure. Many laundry detergents contain harmful chemicals to both the environment and to yourself. Buy green laundry detergent, with biodegradable and phosphate free ingredients, ensure these ingredients are plant and vegetable based. Save energy (and money) by setting your washing machine to use cold water. Studies demonstrate that washing clothes at 30 degrees Celsius will have a carbon footprint of 0.6 kilograms compared to a carbon footprint of 3.3 kilograms if clothes are washed at 60 degrees Celsius. Avoid the drying machine, this requires the use of large amounts of energy resulting in greenhouse gas emissions and line dry your clothes instead to conserve this energy. Hand washing is another great technique to conserve energy.

As citizens of the globe we all have a duty to preserve the Earth for future generations. The fashion industry is linked to climate change, so it is vital that we are all made aware of this impact. From here we can educate and empower designers, fashion brands/companies, local communities and the individual to take a stand against climate change and ensure that our clothing and accessories are environmentally sustainable. When it comes to your fashion choices, always ask yourself, what’s your impact?

Sources:

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