Fashion is one of the world’s largest industries but also one of the largest polluters. Meanwhile, in the last two decades, there has been an increase in the production of cheap, poor-quality clothing due to a reduction in production costs to meet the fast cycle of trends.
Suddenly, everyone can afford to buy trendy clothing, wear it a few times, and throw it away. This toxic cycle is called fast fashion, and it has a serious impact on the planet, the animals, and the workers’ lives.
Fortunately, some clothing brands like Silk Laundry are working their way to make fashion more sustainable. This movement aims to change fashion practices to benefit the people involved throughout the supply chain, the resources, and the planet as a whole.
Fashion’s Environmental Impact
The fashion industry is the second-largest polluter globally, and its impact on the environment is growing by the day. So, below are some of the ways the industry is endangering the lives of people and damaging the planet:
Wastewater from garment factories that contain toxic substances like lead, mercury, and arsenic, is sometimes dumped directly into rivers. This contamination is dangerous to aquatic life and the lives of the people that live nearby. Contaminated waters from these rivers can also reach the seas and eventually spread throughout the planet.
The fashion industry has a high water consumption. For example, it takes 200 tons of freshwater to dye a ton of fabric and about 20,000 litres to produce a kilogram of cotton. This exerts pressure on the already scarce resource and has serious ecological consequences.
The production chain of the fashion industry generates a lot of greenhouse gases and accounts for 10% of the carbon emissions around the world. Moreover, most of the clothes being worn now are a combination of natural and synthetic fibres. And cheap synthetic fibres emit gases like NO2 and are made from fossil fuels and produced in factories powered by coal.
Every year, over 100 billion garments are manufactured around the globe. And since many of these are made from synthetic materials, they are non-biodegradable and can take hundreds of years to decompose.
Thousands of hectares of forests are cut down every year to give way to the plantation of wood-based fabrics such as rayon, viscose, and modal. This deforestation is threatening not only the ecosystems but even the indigenous communities that live in these rainforests.
Working for long hours in a dangerous environment for low wages and having no fundamental human rights met are just some of the issues garment factory workers face. There is also the issue of child labour because the industry only requires low-skilled labour.
What You Can Do
You can do a few things as a consumer to help ease the fashion industry’s environmental impact. Below are some:
- Buy less and recycle.
- Choose clothes that are made in factories that adhere to strict environmental regulations.
- Choose garments that are made from organic and natural fibres.
- Choose sustainable brands. Some brands like Silk Laundry are now working on a more circular production model that aims to reduce waste production and manufacture quality timeless pieces that you can wear for a long time.
- Buy better quality products. Cheaper clothes have poor quality, which incentivises people to easily dispose of old clothes and buy more. This contributes to the problem of waste from the fashion industry.
The fashion industry is one of the most globalised industries, and its growth has a deleterious effect on the environment. And, as a consumer, you have the power to help minimise this negative impact. Moreover, you don’t have to join campaigns to make a difference; start small by checking your closet and go from there.