As my first post, I would like to start off with a topic that is easy to look past.
We’re going to dive in to the 385.7 billion USD worth industry of fashion (1) and the big impact the industry has on the environment and its people.
The reason for choosing this topic is a sustainability-oriented breakfast seminar hosted by BTH (Blekinge technical institute) that I was a part of a while ago.
In the beginning we got to see a clip about the production of a simple cotton t-shirt. The six-minute clip was an absolute jaw-dropper. (2)
How about this, did you know that it takes about 2700L of water to grow the cotton it takes to produce one t-shirt?
Or did you know that cotton uses more pesticides than any other crop in the world? This harms not only the workers that has to be there but also the ecosystem where the cotton grows.
One more, just for the sake of it. Did you know that the coloring that about 70 percent of all textures gets can, in worst cases, contain cancer causing substances. For example, lead, mercury and chromium. These and other harmful compounds and chemicals can cause wide spread contaminations when they are released as toxic waste water in rivers and oceans.
Fashion is now the second largest polluter in the world after oil
“Fashion is now the second largest polluter in the world after oil” is a quote often written in sustainability blogs and articles. But it might not be accurate, according to this article there is a lack of research and data for it to be true. (3) But one thing is sure though, the fashion industry is not sustainable. Not at all.Fashion is one of the most resource-intensive industries in the world, both in terms of natural resources and human resources.
These days technology has come so far that in countries that has the chance to utilize it the production of garments doesn’t touch a human hand until the cloth should be turned into a t-shirt or another equivalent garment. When it reaches this state, humans take over to do the endless and tiresome stitching.
Bangladesh has now passed China as world leaders in exporting t-shirts, which I guess is nice for them. But if we look under the hood, the people who work at the factory gets next to nothing in return for their labor. The average salary for a garment worker in Bangladesh is $68 per month, which is about 620sek in today’s exchange rate.
This is only the production part of the whole cycle.
When we start to weigh in the consumers role as well things goes to the extreme.
If we take America as an example, the average household does about 400 loads of laundry per year each using around 50L worth of water. Both the washer and the dryer use a lot of energy.The dryer uses about five to six times more than the washer.
The global carbon emission of the clothing production is escalating, cheaper garments and people’s willingness to buy boosted the global production from 1994 to 2014 with 400 percent. That’s about 80 billion garments per year!
Luckily, there are things that we can do to help the fashion industry to lower their footprint! Some are simple, and some might be a bit more difficult.
First off there is clothes made from organic cotton. If we try to buy the organic version, we can spare the environment from a lot of pesticides and obviously the health of the workers that cultivate the fields. Organic cotton makes up for less than one percent of the in total 22.7 million ton of cotton produced worldwide. But if the request is big enough the industry must adapt or risk to disappear.
There is always the possibility to look for cloths in second hand, I won’t judge you if you don’t. But it’s at least one way of lowering the carbon footprint. And to be honest, fashion comes and goes all the time. We’re probably not that far away from going back to the shoulder pads from the 80s.
Consider clothes made of recycled organic cotton, I didn’t even know that this was a thing until I saw it in a store not that long ago. I should mention that I don’t shop too often but it’s fun to learn new stuff!
Wash less, or at least hang your clothes to dry instead of using a dryer. If you have the possibility you can hang your clothes outside during larger parts of the summer here in Sweden. This goes for a lot of countries and if you don’t use a dryer, you’ll save some money in the process as well. Win win!
But everything isn’t darkness
Here are some glimpse of light even if the road is long and bumpy.
Consumers are starting to move; we are asking for more sustainable and organically produced garments. Below is a link that lists ten affordable brands that create clothes in a sustainable way, maybe you can find your next piece here!
The industry is starting to wake up as well. There are a bunch of different brands that take steps towards a great future within sustainable fashion. (4). For one, you have H&M that is one of the global distributors of fashion which also is closing in on 100% sustainable cotton, currently at 95%. (5)
Together we can change the industry for the better!
I hope that you found this interesting and that you will hang your clothes to dry when it’s a nice summer day instead of making the dryer work.
Until next time friends, have a nice day!