Founder's Column: Follow the Right Mindset
Posted on June 12 2019
What does your clothing say about you? Some people think that it doesn't matter what we wear to work… Others suggest dressing for success… I see that garments make a statement, help to tell a story, describe personality and lifestyle. Clothes can change the way people think and feel, affect behavior, and influence performance.
If the importance of dressing well is obvious, then what about adopting sustainable living practices? How to feel great while not hurting other people and our environment? I have started to question pretty much everything and suggest you do the same. It’s important to note that the textile manufacturing industry is very thirsty business, one of the world’s most polluting and health damaging sector and a significant contributor to climate change.
People are buying a lot more garments than ever before but use each item fewer times — that means more garments are being discarded. The Pulse report states that 57% of these end up in landfill, 20% of textiles are recycled, 8% of garments are reused and 25% of clothing waste is incinerated.
About 20% of industrial wastewater comes from textile dyeing and treatment, according to the World Bank. Clothing is responsible for releasing 16 times more microfibre into the ocean than cosmetics. As well as, it takes 10 000 to 20 000 liters of water to produce 1KG of conventional cotton — equivalent to the weight of one man's shirt and pair of jeans).
Textile production produces 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, and that is more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined. In 2015, polyester produced for clothing emitted 282 billion KG of CO2 — nearly three times more than for cotton. If fashion were a country, it would be the 4th largest CO2 emitter in the world that is effectively undermining global efforts to address climate change.
For example, it takes 125 MJ of energy to produce 1 KG of polyester, and the greenhouse gas emitted from that KG produced is 14.2 kg. That makes polyester production very high-impact process. But in general, around half of the carbon dioxide from fashion sector comes from wearing, washing, tumble-drying, ironing and dry cleaning clothes.
Around 8,000 synthetic chemicals (43 million tonnes of chemicals per year) are used throughout the world to turn raw materials into textiles. Pesticides that are used to grow the raw materials for textiles can be a major health and environmental hazard, plus these end up in freshwater systems. Even after wastewater has been treated, residual chemicals from the dying process remain in water supplies. These residues can be carcinogenic, toxic, mutagenic and have detrimental effects upon human reproductive systems. In comparison, the production of conventional cotton is estimated to require 200,000 tonnes of pesticides and 8 million tonnes of fertilisers annually.
Sadly, social media continues to encourage unsustainable consumption of disposable clothing and especially when it comes to fast fashion — all of that is driving us toward an environmental catastrophe. So, why not follow your positive mindset instead of typical fashion influencers? They certainly do not call people to say no to fast fashion, increase the lifetime of your own clothes and be more conscious about what you buy. Probably they do not recognize that that's the most effective means of reducing environmental footprint, so, still work against it by reflecting that wearing something new every day is glorious, cool and a reasonable thing to do. Don't forget that us, consumers, hold power to make a positive change.
“We need a fashion industry based on three principles: clean, fair and good”, said Antoinette Guhl, the Deputy Mayor of Paris. Healing is our responsibility to ensure that there is a good life for future generations. So, I would like to urge you to be more conscious of what you buy. You are responsible for the impact that you have on the planet. Make it a better one!
Here are 5 thoughtful tips for dressing up if you want to reduce your ecological footprint and live a sustainable lifestyle:
- Reduce — buy less and choose well. Say no to fast fashion and plastic — instead, invest in quality items that are made to last, are timeless and ethically made from sustainable materials (such as organic fabrics that are produced and processed according to organic standards and have been controlled for social and environmental responsibility. Alternatively, other fabrics that have environmentally friendly characteristics). However, be aware that the word ‘sustainable’ has become a buzzword — also a growing amount of fashion firms that don't fall into this criteria use it.
- Rewear — Reuse, take care of your clothes, wear them longer.
- Remake— Repair your things or find a new purpose for your items. Don’t throw things away
- Rent — Rent your clothes if you do not plan to wear them repeatedly.
Recycle — Prefer recycled materials over traditional ones and help to move toward a circular economy.
- A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future, Ellen Macartur Foundation, 2017
- Common Objective Network
- Fashion Industry Waste Statistics Online
- Fixing Fashion: Clothing Consumption and Sustainability, Environmental Audit Committee, 2019
- How Instagram Influencers Fuel Our Destructive Addiction To Fast Fashion, Huffingtonpost, 2019
- International Carbon Flows, Clothing, Carbon Trust, 2011
- NRDC’s Green Supply Chain Initiative to Clean up the Fashion Industry, Clean By Design
- OECD Stat Online
- Pulse of the Fashion Industry, Global Fashion Agenda and The Boston Consulting Group, 2017
- Putting the Brakes on Fast Fashion, United Nations Environment, 2018
- Sustainability as Culture, Study Hall: Sustainable Fashion Conference in collaboration with Fashion Revolution & Central Saint Martins, 2019
- The Apparel Industry’s Environmental Impact in 6 Graphics, World Resources Institute
- UN Helps Fashion Industry Shift to Low Carbon, UN Climate Change, 2018
Valuing Our Clothes: the cost of UK fashion, Wrap, 2017