There are many sustainability issues in the fashion industry with the rise of fast fashion. Now the second largest polluter in the world – just after the oil industry – it’s time for the fashion industry to take a serious look at its impact on the environment.
The Use and Abuse of Water
Fashion has a large water footprint, due mainly to its dependence on cotton. Cotton plants are amazingly thirsty. On average it takes about 2,720 liters of water to produce one T-shirt. In India, the water consumed to grow cotton exports in 2013 would be enough to supply 85% of the country’s 1.24 billion people with 26 gallons of water every day for a year. Meanwhile, more than 100 million people in India do not have access to safe water.
Besides its massive water consumption, the fashion industry is also guilty of water pollution. Fabric dye is the main culprit. An estimated 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used to bleach, treat, and brighten our clothes. In many mills, the dyes are dumped into local water sources.
According to EcoWatch, “In the U.S., 84 percent of discarded clothes wind up in an incinerator or landfill.” Thanks to fast fashion, Americans’ clothing consumption has doubled in the last two decades – to 14 million tons per year. Just a few generations ago, designers created 4 fashion collections per year. Fast forward to today’s fast fashion culture, and there are as many as 52 micro collections per year. That shirt you just bought last week? It’s already out of style, and it was designed that way! This leads to more clothing being discarded.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
By some estimates, the fashion industry is responsible for up to 10% of global CO2 emissions. In fact, textile production emits more CO2 gases annually that all international flights and maritime shipping trips combined.
Many people don’t know that fabrics like rayon, viscose and modal are actually made from trees – old growth trees from endangered rainforests. Mills add chemicals to the trees to manufacture “dissolving pulp.” Viscose producers use the pulp to manufacture fibers used to produce textiles. The production of viscose is very inefficient, using only about 60% of the tree…not to mention, it’s a very toxic process.
What can we do?
- Buy more sustainable brands. We love brands like Royal Apparel, Midori and Satva. Shop Gone to Green for more sustainable choices.
- Buy less stuff. Yep – it’s pretty simple. Consuming less is a great way to be more sustainable.
- Buy quality not quantity – invest in quality pieces that will stand the test of time. Instead of buying several cheap items, why not buy one quality item that will last a lifetime?
For more tips, check out our blog Gone to Green’s Step-by-Step Guide To Building a More Sustainable Wardrobe.