Ethical Brands and Guilt-Free Comfort
As science improves every year, so does our capacity to make the world better. This extends into all sorts of areas: more convenient technologies, better health care, better means of transportation, and the list goes on.
One way we need to improve in almost every area is sustainability. Short-term convenience or gain means nothing if we sacrifice long-term prosperity and health. Today, our advancements in technology and information should make sustainable efforts more achievable than ever.
So what role does the fashion industry play? When you hear sustainability, you probably think about transportation industries or industrial farming first, but make no mistake that clothing production has a significant worldwide impact in terms of environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Even though you might not be thinking about the impact of your favorite jeans or that new swimwear, it’s worth your consideration.
Because of this great impact, we have an equally great responsibility and a great opportunity. We can and should do better.
Today’s article is about what it means for fashion to be sustainable, how it matters, and how you can participate with the right clothing brand to work towards a better future.
What Kind of Impact Does Fashion Make?
The fashion industry's impact on the world isn’t a secret. Many organizations have made statistics available concerning the overall impact of fashion production, consumption, and waste disposal.
Production Pollution & Waste
Pollution is a huge problem in the fashion industry, especially during the garment production stage.
One of the biggest ways fashion contributes negatively towards a sustainable environment is its carbon emissions.
The fashion industry creates more carbon pollution than aircraft and shipping combined. The numbers are staggering — fashion accounts for a whole 10% of world carbon emissions, and that number only looks to be rising.
Water consumption is another issue facing multiple facets of the industry. Many traditional materials use immense quantities of water in production, such as traditional cotton.
Not only is fashion using too much water, but the industry is also polluting it. Pesticides used in farming many traditional materials contaminate the water used during production, potentially carrying that contamination out into the greater water cycle or preventing the water from being recyclable.
Further, fabrics like cheap synthetics like polyester often require chemical treatments and finishes to achieve performance qualities. Even modern, eco-friendly fabrics like bamboo, if the manufacturing process isn’t sustainable, rely on chemical treatments for better efficiency.
With the immense popularity of athleisure apparel, synthetic fabrics full of harmful chemicals are more common than ever. Unless you choose athleisure styles using eco-friendly materials that utilize ethical manufacturing processes, there’s a taint of environmental damage with every wear.
Beyond pesticides, farming has other environmental costs as well. Soil erosion and degradation can render land unusable or dirty nearby water systems — both of which create a host of problems.
Many fabric crops completely ruin the farmland they grew on after a certain time. For production practices to be sustainable, the long-term health of the farmland involved is key.
Our planet only has so much room. If we continue to consume and consume space without allotting for the needs of the future, eventually, the land will have no more to give.
Consumption & Disposal
The fashion industry contributes to pollution during all stages, even after the clothes have been worn and disposed of.
Clothing is generally worn for shorter and shorter durations in modern times, with some 20% of clothes never being worn at all. This results in tons of textile waste in landfills beyond numbers most of us could ever comprehend.
For some context, the amount of textile waste disposed of every second worldwide equates to the volume of a garbage truck. There are a lot of seconds in a day. Once you start doing the math, you realize how monumental the amount of waste fashion produces really is.
Fast fashion is highly guilty in this regard, but all areas of fashion need to do better in terms of creating longer-lasting clothes with better versatility and durability.
Another area of impact often overlooked concerns microplastics that come off most synthetic fabrics in the wash and filter out to the ocean, polluting our seas.
Human Rights & Socio-Economic Sustainability
Many of the production practices in the fashion industry fail to meet basic human rights requirements. Workers in developing countries are often hired at incredibly low wages and made to work brutally long hours. They often live in poverty as a result.
Many workers also face potential health detriment due to the chemicals and pollution present in many textile factories. These may come from the dyes and softening products used and from the production of materials like nylon.
These issues are well known, but imposing policies that prevent this kind of exploitation has proven to be difficult. Industry producers need to take responsibility and ensure the communities involved in their supply chain take care of their members.
We’ve looked at a long list of sizable problems, and by now, this may look like a grim situation. No doubt, the efforts required to make positive strides will be great, and they must be unified. Every little step and contribution matters too.
Let’s talk about some of those steps now. Using better production practices, supporting companies that pay fair wages, creating longer-lasting clothes, and choosing sustainable clothing brands can all substantially impact sustainability going forward.
Almost everything comes down to the fabrics at the foundation of our clothing.
Ditching Fabrics of the Past
The fabrics we have been using for most of the 21st century and beyond are simply not good enough.
Up first for scrutiny is cotton. One of the most heavily produced materials in the world, cotton has dominated fashion on all fronts for ages. It’s best known for its soft texture, but its practical downsides aren’t as raved about, nor its environmental costs.
Cotton uses a ton of water and typically requires pesticides that pollute said water. This can be particularly harmful to the farmers producing these fabrics.
Traditional synthetic fabrics have a similar issue: the toxic chemicals used to treat them and give them performance qualities are terrible polluters. They can also be harmful to your skin.
Modern fabrics are the key to a brighter future in many respects. Improving on production, consumption, and disposal concerns, these sustainable materials might just be the best solution going forward.
Let’s start simple. Organic cotton is an alternative to traditional cotton that’s making great strides towards being more eco-friendly. The biggest proponent of organic fabrics is the absence of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. This protects the health of the farmland, water, and other animals and plants in the surrounding environment.
Organic cotton is an excellent start, but the real exciting prospects are in the new ways we’re finding to harness natural resources such as beachwood and bamboo.
These all-natural, chemical-free, sustainable fabrics offer a super soft touch, high-performance qualities, hypoallergenic material, natural UV protection, odor-resistance, wrinkle resistance, and more.
The qualities of these natural fibers cover all the essential needs for any situation that could come your way in your everyday life. That means clothes using these fabrics are much more versatile than the clothes of the past.
With a versatile wardrobe comes reduced need to keep buying new clothes for different occasions. Where previously your commute attire couldn’t handle a workout and wouldn’t be stylish for a night on the town, the best modern styles are perfectly suited to all three occasions and more.
With odor resistance and improved durability, your clothes can also last much longer than today’s fast-fashion styles that use cheap standards for durability and often build up odor over time.
The fashion industry's negative impact on the environment and communities of the world is clear for all to see. So are the steps we can take to make things better. It starts with choosing fabrics that use low-impact production practices and versatile clothes that last longer. Consider looking into ethical clothing brands that you can support. Their fair trade policies should apply to all clothing, from your t-shirts and favorite denim down to your underwear.
Here at Tasc Performance, we create our own unique, sustainable, performance-ready fabrics using blends of conscious materials like bamboo, organic cotton, and beachwood to ensure anything you choose from us works towards a better future.
Together, we can make a difference. So whether you need new jackets, accessories, or athleisure, consider making a responsible decision with a slow fashion brand or one that focuses on production methods.