Fashion and the natural world may seem like an unlikely pair to discuss, but if you find yourself caring about both, you may have noticed a conundrum. It seems like every other week, a new campaign against a particular fashion product emerges, and lately, leather has been in the spotlight.
These discussions, however, often fail to present the full picture, opting instead for a simplistic narrative of labeling everything as either “bad” or “good.”
But what if the reality is more complex than that? What if, instead of blindly following the loudest voices in the media and simply purchasing the latest “sustainable” collections that claim to address the most recent problem, we took a step back and examined the entire system?
In this blog series, we will delve into the intricate relationship between fast fashion, consumable goods, and the environment. We will explore the impact of fast fashion on our planet, with a particular focus on leather and its contested sustainability.
Moreover, we will shed light on other materials that contribute to the environmental costs of the fashion industry.
By examining the complete picture, we can gain a deeper understanding of the challenges we face and the potential solutions available.
So, let’s embark on this journey together, exploring the complexities, controversies, and possibilities that lie within the world of fashion and sustainability.
The environmental effects of fast fashion
The environmental effects of fast fashion are far-reaching and encompass various aspects of the industry. At its core, fast fashion operates on a relentless pursuit of selling a vast quantity of clothes to as many consumers as possible, often prioritizing profit margins over sustainability.
However, it is essential to recognize that the environmental costs associated with fast fashion extend beyond the specific materials used in clothing production. They stem from systemic flaws ingrained within the industry itself.
This constant turnover encourages consumers to frequently update their wardrobes, resulting in a culture of disposability and excessive waste generation.
The discarded garments end up in landfills, contributing to the mounting problem of textile waste, with over 92 million tons of textile waste generated each year.
Furthermore, the production of textiles for fast fashion involves resource-intensive processes that have significant environmental implications. Textile production requires vast amounts of water, energy, and chemicals.
The extraction of raw materials, such as cotton and synthetic fibers, depletes resources at incredible rates. For example, making a cotton t-shirt will take approximately 2,700 liters, equivalent to what an average person drinks in 2.5 years, according to the Soil Association.
Meanwhile, polyester, a commonly used synthetic fabric, is derived from fossil fuels, and while its production uses significantly less water, it emits approximately three times more carbon dioxide per kilogram than cotton.
Additionally, conventionally growing textiles requires intensive fertilizer and pesticide use, and the dyeing and finishing processes involve the use of hazardous chemicals, which can pollute water sources and harm ecosystems.
The energy-intensive manufacturing processes, long-distance transportation of goods, and breakdown of synthetic fabrics during washing all contribute to the industry’s carbon emissions.
These emissions exacerbate climate change, further straining the environment. And this is not some trivial contribution:
the fashion industry represents roughly 10% of human emissions, more than aviation and shipping combined, according to the UN. And this problem is only increasing as our culture embraces disposability, with the number of garments produced doubling from 2000 to 2014 while clothing is worn on average 36% less.
Recognizing the multifaceted environmental costs of fast fashion is crucial to understanding the urgency for change. By delving into the issues of overconsumption, waste generation, pollution, resource depletion, and climate impact, we can gain a comprehensive understanding of the environmental challenges posed by the fast fashion industry.
Only by addressing these issues head-on and implementing sustainable practices can we mitigate the detrimental effects and pave the way for a more environmentally conscious fashion future.
As designers and artists, we have the power to shape culture and influence change. It is time to recognize the far-reaching environmental costs of fast fashion and take action to reduce our impact.
Overconsumption, waste generation, pollution, resource depletion, and climate impact are all urgent issues that demand our attention.
But change is not easy, and it won’t happen overnight. We must work together to create a more sustainable fashion industry that values quality over quantity and promotes responsible consumption. And that starts with education and awareness.
In our next article, we’ll explore the impact of leather and leather alternatives in the fast fashion industry.
By adopting more eco-friendly methods and materials, we can pave the way for a more responsible and conscious future for fashion. Stay tuned, and let’s continue the conversation on building a more sustainable fashion industry.