CLOTHING & FASHION
The latest trend in fashion is sustainability. Many of us are looking for more eco-friendly products and changing our buying habits.
The operating model of the fashion industry has for many years been to step up the pace of design and production, with many clothing companies offering new designs every week. As a result of this over production, the industry is the second-biggest consumer of water, generating around 20 percent of the world’s wastewater and releasing half a million tons of synthetic microfibers into the ocean annually. The average consumer buys 60 percent more pieces of clothing than 15 years ago. Each item is only kept for half as long.
According to figures from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it takes 3,781 liters (998 gallons) of water to make one pair of jeans, from the production of the cotton to the delivery of the final product to the store. Imagine what the impact is on the environment for everything we buy. Plus, less than 1 % of used clothing is recycled into new garments. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that every year, around $500,000,000,000 in value is lost due to clothing that is barely worn, not donated, recycled, or ends up in a landfill.
- Every year the fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water — enough to meet the consumption needs of five million people.
- Around 20 percent of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment.
- Of the total fiber input used for clothing, 87 percent is incinerated or disposed of in a landfill.
- The fashion industry is responsible for 10 percent of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. At this pace, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will surge more than 50 percent by 2030.
- If demographic and lifestyle patterns continue as they are now, global consumption of apparel will rise from 62 million metric tons in 2019 to 102 million tons in 10 years.
- Every year a half a million tons of plastic microfibers are dumped into the ocean, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles. The danger? Microfibers cannot be extracted from the water and they can spread throughout the food chain.
From the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion: “By using fashion as a form of activism and empowerment, the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion doesn’t perceive sustainability as a limitation to fashion, but rather a trigger for bringing real creativity and passion into the industry,” said H.E. Siim Kiisler, President of the UN Environment Assembly.
“Research shows that fashion presents many opportunities for reducing waste and improving the environment. But the fashion industry cuts across many sectors, and so to capture the full opportunity, the UN and its partners need an integrated approach that goes beyond individual Sustainable Development Goals.”
Fortunately, consumers have been taking notice of these issues and are increasingly looking for more sustainable items, while also shopping at consignment stores. Younger shoppers in particular are concerned about their effect on the environment. According to the Nielsen survey, 53 percent of those ages 21 through 34 said they’d give up a brand-name product in order to buy an environmentally friendly one, compared with 34% of those ages 50 through 64.
As a result of this, companies are changing their production processes, and their philosophy. There is clearly power in the choices we make.