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How Fashion is Failing the Environment

This article was written by Amelia Vivash in Year 9

All of you are most likely familiar with the vast impact that plastic bottles and straws have on our oceans, along with the extensive amount of air pollution caused by carbon emissions, released by our vehicles. We all do our own small part to lessen pollution or to limit its effects. Some of us may recycle our plastic products when possible or car share on our way to school.

We see constant public speakers and articles detailing the intense effects of our pollution, but tell me; have you ever heard about how the Fashion industry is contributing to these things?

Fashion is providing all different types of pollution, and no one is discussing its consequences.

Everyone is buying more clothes.

In the time between 2000 and 2014, we have bought 60% more clothes than we had previously.

The surprising part? They are staying in our closet for only half as long! Meaning a lot of clothing is ending up in landfills. Every second the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothing is dumped into a landfill or burnt (which releases Carbon Dioxide & other Greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change.) Many of these clothing items even have good enough integrity to be recycled or reused.

I am not trying to tell you to stop buying clothes, in fact, I’m encouraging you to continue to purchase clothing as normal. The issue with the volume and way that clothing is being bought is that they are not being used to their full capacity. They are being thrown out when the owner deems them no longer useful- or society no longer “trendy.”

However; clothing can be recycled in many, many ways.

Before looking at how we can assist with this issue, I would like to show you where it starts.

The production of denim jeans consumes up to 2,000 gallons of water

(that’s enough for a person to drink eight cups of water every day for ten years! )

These statistics reflect that the fashion industry is the second most water-consuming industry in the world. This is due to the material that jeans are made of- high water demanding plants: Cotton.

But cotton is not the only substance to blame. Textile dyeing; a process of dipping a garment in a pre-dyed liquid is a very wasteful procedure as well, as a large amount of leftover water is simply dumped into nearby rivers, ditches or lakes; wasting water, or polluting marine life.

But it is not just waste that this industry is producing.

Fast fashion is responsible for up to 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions.

This is created through the manufacturing and exportation of these goods which are made in unneeded amounts. To put this in perspective:

fashion causes more pollution than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

Pollution does not stop even once the garments have reached our homes.

Every year 500,000 tonnes of micro-plastic ends up in our oceans from washing clothes alone.

This is equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles. Over 60% of clothing is made from polyester: a plastic component that releases 2-3 times more carbon emissions in its production than cotton.

Evidently, a plastic such as this does not break down in the ocean- meaning that washing a shirt with this element could subject the sea to thousands of years of contamination.

So where does it stop? Clothes are still in perfect condition are thrown away and sent to landfills- or to be burnt, not even halfway through their lifespan. These are items of clothing that some people would still wear- or that can be reused.

Think of the last time you threw out clothes.

Why did you do it? Were they too small? Were you making space in your wardrobe? Was it simply ‘not your style’ anymore?

It is unlikely that the items that you did dispose of were threadbare.

And whilst there is nothing wrong with revamping your wardrobe every now and again, there are many alternative ways of purging your clothes- than to just throw everything away. You can give away, donate to second-hand stores, or even make new clothes out of the old fabrics.

Good thing that there is a solution to this (kind of:)

Asides from buying from second-hand stores- or sharing clothes with your friends; you can purchase brand- new clothes that do not cost the earth from sustainable companies.

Now- ‘Sustainable’ brands do tend to be extremely expensive and not budget-friendly. But what if I told you that there are affordable options available?

Many apparel companies such as Mango, Marks & Spencers, Zara and even H&M have opted to release eco lines to cut back on textile and water pollution. They - alongside some others, feature collections full of unique stylish clothing that is made with sustainability in mind!

This is a huge step in the right direction.

For it is obvious that without quick action, the trajectory of the industry could cost us our future.

P.S: Don't forget to always carry a reusable bag when going shopping.


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