World of the Wild

Cottoning onto the Environmental Impact of Fashion The word “fashion” can conjure up many different images and feelings. Take a moment to think about what springs to your mind.

Textile waste is an unintended consequence of fast fashion, as more people buy more clothes and don't keep them as long as they used to. Though the primary focus has remained on improving the impacts of products through fiber and fabric processing and material provenance, Doug Tompkins and Yvon Chouinard were early to note the fundamental cause of unsustainability:

But it is particularly bad for the environment, as pressure to reduce cost and the time it takes to get a product from design to shop floor means that environmental corners are more likely to be cut. Criticisms of fast fashion include its negative environmental impact, water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals and increasing levels of textile waste.
Sustainable fashion, also called eco fashion, is a part of the growing design philosophy and trend of sustainability, the goal of which is to create a system which can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and social responsibility.
Patagonia was one of the earliest defenders of environmental ethics in the activewear fashion industry, and one of the first adopters of using recycled materials and switching to organic cotton. Patagonia is expanding its commitment to labor ethics as well by working with Fair Trade Certified factories in India, Sri Lanka, and Los Angeles.
Yet fast fashion leaves a pollution footprint, with each step of the clothing life cycle generating potential environmental and occupational hazards. For example, polyester, the most widely used manufactured fiber, is made from petroleum.
One of these ideas is the potential of natural capital accounting to help the apparel sector accelerate its environmental impact reduction. Few sectors are more emblematic of today’s consumer-driven growth model than the fashion industry.
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Yet fast fashion leaves a pollution footprint, with each step of the clothing life cycle generating potential environmental and occupational hazards. For example, polyester, the most widely used manufactured fiber, is made from petroleum.

Some companies and organizations are working to combat clothing pollution, increase sustainable design opportunities, and increase the visibility of the sustainable fashion movement. Hurdles to growth include cost of hand labor for hand weeding, reduced yields in comparison to conventional cotton and absence of fiber commitments from brands to farmers before planting seed.

The up front financial risks and costs are therefore shouldered by the farmers, many of whom struggle to compete with economies of scale of corporate farms. Though some designers have marketed bamboo fiber , as an alternative to conventional cotton, citing that it absorbs greenhouse gases during its life cycle and grows quickly and plentifully without pesticides, the conversion of bamboo fiber to fabric is the same as rayon and is highly toxic.

The FTC ruled that labeling of bamboo fiber should read "rayon from bamboo". Bamboo fabric can cause environmental harm in production due to the chemicals used to create a soft viscose from hard bamboo. Used clothing is sold in more than countries. In Tanzania, used clothing is sold at the mitumba Swahili for "secondhand" markets.

Most of the clothing is imported from the United States. And because environmental and sustainability issues are complex, it is also easy to mislead consumers.

In the European Union, the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals REACH regulations required in that clothing manufacturers and importers identified and quantified the chemicals used in their products. On May 3, , the world's largest summit on fashion sustainability was held in Copenhagen, gathering more than 1, key stakeholders in the industry to discuss the importance of making the fashion industry sustainable.

Copenhagen Fashion Summit has since then gathered thousands of people from the fashion industry in their effort to create a movement within the industry. In July , the Sustainable Apparel Coalition launched the Higg Index , a self-assessment standard designed to measure and promote sustainable supply chains in the apparel and footwear industries.

Environmental Protection Agency , academic institutions and environmental nonprofits. Five mega trends are identified by the organization that will lead the future of sustainable fashion. The first mega trend is "Power of Nature" which is the industry looking into materials that have always been looked at as waste as a more sustainable method to making new clothing.

The second mega trend is "Rent a Closet" this initiative has been around for a while. This trend ultimately lowers the new purchase of clothing and disposal of clothing, which means less waste. Rent the Runway started as a company that would give luxury brands like Hervé Leger , Vera Wang , Etro to people who may not be able to afford the clothing at regular retail price. Renting and sharing clothing is also known as CFC collaborative fashion consumption a sustainable fashion trend consumers are getting involved in.

Repairing and reselling clothing has less negative impact than creating new clothing does. The fourth mega trend is "Innovative Recycling" which is looking at waste as value.

The industry is starting to create incentives for consumers to participate in the recycling of clothing. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. January Learn how and when to remove this template message.

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But this figure is rapidly growing. In her book Waste and Want: Before then, and especially during World War I, most clothing was repaired, mended, or tailored to fit other family members, or recycled within the home as rags or quilts. During the war, clothing manufacturers reduced the varieties, sizes, and colors of their productions and even urged designers to create styles that would use less fabric and avoid needless decoration.

However, the spirit of conservation did not last long; by the mids consumerism was back in style. Industrialization grew in the twentieth century, providing the means of increased production of all consumer goods. Industrialization brought consumerism with it as an integral part of the economy. Economic growth came to depend on continued marketing of new products and disposal of old ones that are thrown away simply because stylistic norms promote their obsolescence.

When it comes to clothing, the rate of purchase and disposal has dramatically increased, so the path that a T-shirt travels from the sales floor to the landfill has become shorter. Yet even today, the journey of a piece of clothing does not always end at the landfill. A portion of clothing purchases are recycled mainly in three ways: Domestic resale has boomed in the era of the Internet.

Many people sell directly to other individuals through auction websites such as eBay. The trend of increased purchasing of clothing and other household goods has served the salvage charities well. The Council for Textile Recycling estimates that 2. Only about one-fifth of the clothing donated to charities is directly used or sold in their thrift shops.

Since , the Stubin family of Brooklyn, New York, has owned and operated Trans-America Trading Company, where they process more than 12 million pounds of postconsumer textiles per year. Trans-America is one of the biggest of about 3, textile recyclers in the United States. At its 80,square-foot sorting facility, workers separate used clothing into different categories by type of item, size, and fiber content. Certain brands and rare collectible items are imported by Japan, the largest buyer in terms of dollars of vintage or American high-end fashion.

Clothing that is not considered vintage or high-end is baled for export to developing nations. Data from the International Trade Commission indicate that between and , American exports of used clothing more than tripled, to nearly 7 billion pounds per year.

Used clothing is sold in more than countries. For Tanzania, where used clothing is sold at the mitumba markets that dot the country, these items are the number one import from the United States. Imported apparel from America and Europe is bought in pound bales of mixed clothing by small entrepreneurs.

Like opening a piñata, these merchants sort through the contents of the bales to see whether their investment has paid off. Prices are set according to the latest fashions, the condition of the clothing, and its desirability. T-shirts sell well, especially those with logos from winning sports teams or recognizable athletic gear companies.

Winter clothes, although generally more expensive to produce, command the least value in the secondhand African markets.

Companies such as Trans-America are therefore seeking to expand into colder climes such as Eastern Europe. Observers such as Rivoli predict that the trend toward increasing exports of used clothing to developing countries will continue to accelerate because of the rise of consumerism in the United States and Europe and the falling prices of new clothing. There are detractors to this view, however. The Present and Future Sustainability of Clothing and Textiles in the United Kingdom , in which it raised concerns that trade in secondhand clothes in African countries inhibits development of local industries even as it creates employment in these countries.

And the authors of Recycling of Low Grade Clothing Waste warn that in the long run, as prices and quality of new clothing continue to decline, so too will the demand for used clothing diminish. This is because in the world of fast fashion, new clothing could be bought almost as inexpensively as used clothing. However, even without such specific standards for what constitutes an environmentally friendly garment, industry is taking a broadening diversity of approaches.

One approach has been to use sustainably grown cotton, hemp, bamboo, and other fiber crops that require less pesticides, irrigation, and other inputs. Organic cotton is grown in at least 12 countries. Figures provided by the Organic Trade Association Manufacturer Survey show that the sale of organic cotton fiber grew by an estimated However, organic cotton represents only 0.

This figure may grow as retailers begin to expand their selections of organic cotton apparel. According to Well Dressed? As for whether it is better to buy locally produced garments, the report argues that this approach would cut severely into the livelihood of peoples in developing countries where the products are now being manufactured.

More innovative eco-fashions are being developed and made available to consumers at different levels of the fashion spectrum, from casual clothing to haute couture.

Patagonia, a major retailer in casual wear, has been selling fleece clothing made from postconsumer plastic soda bottles since This recycling process takes clear plastic bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate PET , melts them, and reconfigures them into fibers that can be woven into fabrics and other applications. Patagonia is one of the first and largest clothing retailers to use this material. The company estimates that between and it saved 86 million soda bottles from ending up in the landfill.

Another approach is the use of polymers created from plant-based materials. One such material trademarked by Cargill, Ingeo, is made of corn by-products that are fermented and transformed into polylactide. This polymer is spun into fibers and woven into fabrics that, under strictly managed circumstances, could be composted polylactide, marketed under the name NatureWorks PLA, is also fashioned into wraps, rigid food and beverage containers, coated papers and boards, and other packaging applications.

Versace is one of the haute couture designer clothing firms that have used Ingeo in their collections. Other retailers large and small are taking different steps to appeal to the environmentally conscious consumer. Tesco, the largest British retailer, has commissioned a study by Oxford University toward developing a Sustainable Consumption Institute to establish a system to label every product sold by Tesco on the basis of its carbon emission footprint.

Many in the industry think such efforts are not only good for the environment, but also makes good business sense. In the European Union, the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals REACH regulations enacted 1 June require clothing manufacturers and importers to identify and quantify the chemicals used in their products.

These regulations may even require manufacturers to inform consumers about potentially hazardous chemicals that may be present in their products and can leach out, such as often happens with dyes details of how the regulations will be implemented are still being worked out.

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Fashion is a complicated business involving long and varied supply chains of production, raw material, textile manufacture, clothing construction, shipping, retail, use and ultimately disposal of the garment. You probably know about Stella McCartney's commitment to totally green fashion, and Clare Vivier's environmentally friendly accessories. But as the eco-friendly fashion market continues to grow, new . Cottoning onto the Environmental Impact of Fashion The word “fashion” can conjure up many different images and feelings. Take a moment to think about what springs to your mind.