Fast Fashion; Fast Pollution
BY Bay Area Restoration Council
ON January 23, 2020
Many of us gravitate towards new fashion trends to keep up with the style. Whether it's that new pair of jeans you always wanted, a new pair of shoes, or a shirt, many people have bought something with the intention to keep up with society’s standards. People have the mindset to buy cheap clothes, wear them a couple of times, and then throw them away. Are clothes really cheap if it is costing us our planet?
Carbon emissions are being released by the fashion industry and are greatly contributing to climate change. Different clothing materials have different effects on our planet, but one major material, polyester and synthetics materials, are causing relatively higher carbon emissions than other materials since they are produced from fossil fuels. Polyester is a plastic, and therefore is produced from oil, which undergoes very high energy intensive processes. In total, polyester production alone is responsible for 40% of the fashion industries emissions. The fashion industry is also accountable for 10% of the total man made greenhouse gas emissions. The greenhouse gases come from the production of materials, and also the transportation of materials. Most clothing items are produced globally and have to get to us somehow. Think about all the steps and places your clothing items have been. First they are transported from the factory to the shipping area, then it is flown into your country on planes that release a great amount of emissions, then it is transported by truck once again to the store, then to your home. The amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere is unacceptable.
The fashion industry takes a great toll on water waste and pollution globally. It takes nearly 7000 liters of water to produce one single pair of jeans -- that’s the same amount of water that one person consumes every 5-6 years! The water used in this production goes towards growing the plants, as well as during textile dyes. The wastewater produced from the clothing items then ends up polluting areas around the world. Major contributors to the fashion industry like China, India, and Bangladesh have reported devastating water pollution statistics. China’s state Environmental Protection Administration had alerted the public that a third of China’s rivers were too polluted for any sort of direct human contact. It is also shown that India and Bangladesh’s textile dye runoff goes directly into waterways, and it later spreads into the sea. Statistics released shows that there is a huge rise of a disease, chromium toxicity, surrounding those regions.
Textile dyeing is a dye that adds vibrant colours to make the clothing around us look more appealing. Once the textile dyes have been added to the material, it changes it chemically and allows the colour to stay there permanently. Not only does it add colours to the clothing, but it also requires a great amount of water to properly be used. This adds a great environmental problem, as many places that do textile dyeing do not have proper water treatment before the water enters back into the environment. The wastewater that goes back into the water system then carries a large amount of pollution, and therefore affects many species of animals.
Up-cycling is a fantastic way to maintain clothing, and wear it for longer periods of time. With the up-cycling process, you are able to take worn-out clothing and remake it into something usable and trendy. It allows us to use what is already made, instead of making more of what we already have. The process of up-cycling can be done in two ways; either as the product is still being produced (using leftover patterns and fabrics), or using products that have already been worn by a consumer. Not only can we follow up cycling, but we can also be aware of environmentally friendly fabrics.
Deciding what outfit you want to buy may feel like a challenge, but choosing the type of material for clothing that you buy can be very easy once you have the knowledge. Hemp is one of the most Eco-friendly materials one can buy, as it requires a much smaller amount of pesticides and herbicides than other plants (ex. cotton). Soy is also very Eco friendly, similarly to hemp, the plant is able to be used in many different ways. Unlike silk and cashmere, soy products are cruelty free alternatives that do not greatly affect the environment. Linen is also very Eco friendly, as it is produced by cellulose fibers from flax plants. It is also very durable and good quality, as it lasts an upwards of 20 years. The plant it is made from does not require a great amount of water, which decreases water pollution and waste. Not only does it not produce much water waste, but it is also recyclable and biodegradable, leaving no waste footprints. Next time you purchase clothing, why not take into account what material it is and if it is Eco friendly!
So the question is, what can people in our community do to put a stop to the fashion industries effect on water quality? We can apply simple everyday tasks to create positive habits in our lifestyles. Instead of going to the mall to buy new overpriced clothes, take a trip to the thrift store to buy trendy used clothing. You can also participate in clothing swaps with your friends and family, and you can simply buy less. One of my favourite sayings is that less is more. You will be so much happier when you focus on the little things that matter in life, as opposed to focusing on superficial materials.