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.

Eileen Fisher

Eileen Fisher fashion, CCR

IMAGE COURTESY OF: Eileen Fisher

In 1997, before most clothing brands had embraced sustainability and responsibility for the planet, Eileen Fisher’s Amy Hall created their Social Consciousness department. Their mission was to raise awareness about three values:

  • Practicing business responsibly with absolute regard for human rights.
  • Guiding our product and practice toward sustaining our environment.
  • Supporting women to be full participants in society.

“Our environmental vision is holistic,” says Shona Quinn, Sustainability Leader. “We believe in paying attention to what happens in the field, the dye house and our customers’ washing machines. Our goal is to design out negative impacts—and design in positive change.”

From using organic, sustainable fibers and using dyes made of natural ingredients such as petals leaves and bark, to maintaining transparency in their manufacturing and supply chain, the company is committed to doing more than doing less harm to the environment. They want to make clothes that actually make things better for the world. The company recently launched their Regenerative Wool, a fiber that is helping to restore grasslands and fight climate change.

The company takes a long-term approach to the things they create. They see clothing as having three cycles of life. First Life is when clothes are new. Second Life is covered by a division called Renew. Here, they buy back gently worn clothing, give it a good-as-new cleaning, and resell it.

If the clothing isn’t in good enough shape to be resold, this is Third Life. Their Waste No More division handles clothes in this third cycle, taking pieces that are damaged beyond repair and transforming them into art, including linen, cashmere, organic cotton and wool garments, using a special felting technique. The exquisite wall hangings have been displayed in New York, Milan, Vienna and Florence.

DID YOU KNOW

One of the least sustainable fabrics today is polyester. This non-biodegradable material may take from 20 to 200 years to break down in a landfill. Polyester is partially derived from oil and requires large amounts of water in its manufacturing. It is also responsible for releasing microplastics, especially during washing, which are increasingly harmful to marine life.

Echo Errand Gloves

IMAGE COURTESY OF: Echo

Founded in 1923 by Edgar and Theresa Hyman in New York City, Echo has been creating colorful scarves and fashion accessories for almost 100 years.

Today, the company is responding to the needs of its customers during the COVID-19 pandemic and has created a new line of gloves, The Echo Errand Glove, in a super lightweight, breathable fabric (90% polyester, 10% cotton). The gloves are machine washable and can help protect your hands when out shopping.

The two versions come with or without the Echo Touch®, the technology that allows you to operate touchscreen devices while wearing the gloves.

A donation of $5 for each unit sold will be given to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund which helps food banks across the country as they support communities impacted by the pandemic.

In addition to the Errand Gloves, Echo is selling a line of washable cotton masks with a moldable nose bar, adjustable ear straps and a pocket engineered to secure a PM 2.5 filter and avoid awkward gaps. (These masks are not intended for medical use.)

DID YOU KNOW

Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. Thanks to donations and support from businesses, government organizations and individuals, the Feeding America network of food banks, pantries and meal programs serve virtually every community in the United States — 40 million people, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors.

Nothing New Sneakers

IMAGE COURTESY OF: NOTHING NEW

Nothing New is making a positive impact on the environment by creating shoes from sustainable materials: their sneakers feature a 100% post-consumer recycled plastic upper, and its other components are created from recycled cotton, fishing nets, rubber, and cork.

The company is all about sustainability. Roughly 5.6 plastic bottles go into each pair of shoes, saving 160 gallons of water in comparison to regular cotton canvas sneakers. And their shoe box is made from 100% recycled paper.

According to Business Insider, “Shoes, most specifically sneakers, are by far some of the most wasteful products to make. Massive amounts of virgin plastic, rubber, petroleum, and cardboard go into producing, packaging, and shipping them to consumers. And once they’ve been beaten to the point of being unwearable, they’re thrown in the garbage to live in a landfill forever more.”

Continuing in their commitment to sustainability, the company has created a Virtuous Circle Program. When your Nothing New sneakers are worn out you can ship them back to the company and they will give you a $20 credit towards a new pair. The old sneakers will be either donated to charity or disassembled to put as much of the materials as possible back into the supply chain.

 

DID YOU KNOW

It takes 30 to 40 years on average for shoes to decompose in a landfill. And every year we throw out 300 million pairs of shoes. If you lay 300 million pairs of shoes end to end, they would circle the Earth 4.56 times!

Patagonia

IMAGE COURTESY OF: PATAGONIA

Since 1985, Patagonia has pledged 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. They’ve awarded over $89 million in cash and in-kind donations to domestic and international grassroots environmental groups making a difference in their local communities. In 2002, founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, and Craig Mathews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, created a non-profit corporation to encourage other businesses to do the same.

1% for the Planet is an alliance of businesses that understand the necessity of protecting the natural environment. They understand that profit and loss are directly linked to its health, and are concerned with the social and environmental impacts of industry.

Patagonia’s Worn Wear and ReCrafted Collections address the issue of fashion as a disposable seasonal trend and the environmental impact garments have in landfills. Their Worn Wear operates by buying customers’ products back from them, provided they’re in good condition, in exchange for store credit.​ They also encourage customers to repair their items that may have been torn or damages. Their motto is “Buy Less, Repair More.”

“Repairing clothing and keeping gear in play as long as possible has been part of Patagonia’s business model since the 1970s. Today, Patagonia repairs more than 100,000 items each year in 72 repair centers globally and in Reno — where the company owns and operates the largest apparel repair center in North America.”

Their ReCrafted Collection takes worn-out damaged goods and transforms them into one-of-a-kind items. Thus, they are extending the life of garments that are no longer resale-able or repairable. The line includes vests, down jackets, and bags, carefully crafted in a workshop in Los Angeles.

DID YOU KNOW

Keeping clothing in use just nine extra months can reduce the related carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30%.

allbirds

IMAGE COURTESY OF: allbirds

A native of New Zealand, Tim Brown was always well versed in the magical qualities of merino wool. Inherently curious, he began asking himself why such a remarkable, sustainable resource was virtually absent in the footwear industry. And with that spirit of wonder, the Allbirds journey began.

After years of researching and tinkering, Tim teamed up with Joey Zwillinger, an engineer and renewables expert. Together, they crafted a revolutionary wool fabric made specifically for footwear. The outcome? An entirely new category of shoes inspired by natural materials, and an ongoing mantra to create better things in a better way.

Their merino wool fibers are 20% the diameter of human hair, making it breathable, temperature-regulating, and moisture-wicking, all without that irritating scratchiness. The company produces a selection of shoes for both men and women, along with socks and accessories.

Their shoe packaging uses 90% post-consumer recycled cardboard and that one box serves as a shoe box, shopping bag, and mailer all in one.

The company is concerned with sustainability and their carbon footprint. First, they measure the emissions of everything from their raw materials to their end of life. Next, they reduce their impact by incorporating things like natural and recycled materials. And finally, they offset the little bit that’s left with carbon offsets, making Allbirds a completely carbon neutral business. But their goal is bigger—emit no carbon in the first place.

From the company:
Our ambition is to be like a tree, leaving the environment cleaner than we found it. That’s why we believe in the power of natural materials, and their potential to transform ecosystems. We’re looking beyond carbon neutrality, which means eventually, our business will be carbon negative.

DID YOU KNOW

On average, the production of one shoe produces 30 pounds of carbon dioxide and there are more than 15 billion shoes produced each year! Another aspect that is regularly overlooked and also contributes to the carbon dioxide emissions from shoes is the transportation.