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Bob’s Meanderings: Fashion is Bad for the Environment

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When I watched a televised report saying that the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, I was shocked. Apparently it produces 20% of the global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions. With no changes in clothing habits, who knows what the stats will show by 2050.

It appears that the “fast fashion” business model developed in the early 2000s resulted in a consumer demand for high quantities of low-quality clothing. Now many fashion products can be designed specifically for short-term ownership and premature disposal. With the clothing quality decreasing along with costs, it means the consumption levels of mass-manufactured fashion products are on the rise and so are resources.

Sometimes it seems that just about everything ends up being bad for the environment. Even the clothes we’ve been buying and wearing for so many years when discarded turns out to be bad.

So the problem with the fabrics that are being used to make our modern-day clothes are far from eco-friendly. Some examples are cottons, polyesters and silk – even the dyes used. Many of these fabrics trigger added environmental problems once they end up in landfill sites – some can take more than a hundred of years to break down.

But there is hope. A number of large clothing companies are recognizing the environmental problems caused by proven fabrics, and they’re starting to produce clothes that are made from eco-friendly materials.

I liked to buy something new almost every month, a shirt or sweater, etc. – until the pandemic slowed me down. I realized then that I didn’t need anything more and still don’t.

Young women love those tattered blue jeans with cuts at the knees. Originally to express anger towards society, they are the latest fashion trend.

Fashion brands are not the only ones who have the power to create change. Consumers also have leverage – and it’s vital that they use it. Consumer-driven behaviour change can inspire brands to adapt habits towards a more sustainable future. Small lifestyle changes can create a big sustainable impact. If real change is to happen, more people must take an initiative-taking approach to reflect their moral values.

Before buying new clothes and contributing to pollution, a well-thought-out slower spending would be the priority.

Consideration of eco-friendly clothes still tend to be the exception rather than the norm. That’s why it’s so essential for consumers to start seeking clothes made from environmentally friendly materials. The more that do this, the more commercially workable it will be for companies to use eco-friendly fabrics in their clothing lines.

As well, consider the end-of-life options for clothing items. Millions of dollars’ worth goes right to the landfill. Look at donating clothes to charity and recycling. Consider passing on items to friends and family.

Don’t wait until for the brands to act. The drive to change every day behaviour will be crucial in changing fashion’s future environmental impact of fashion.

Recycling could reduce waste but is still problematic environmentally as it is energy intensive. Some brands are using recycled materials to create clothing which is a benefit.
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The second-hand market is having a revival slowing down buying of new fashions. It still doesn’t solve the problem of consumers buying too much. Fashions need longer lifetimes for their garments and consumers to buy less.

Are rentals the future? There definitely is prospects at the luxury end of the market but there is a clear resistance to rent lower priced items, which are just so easy to buy. If consumers are to take part, rentals need to be accessible, low cost, and fulfil the desire of having something new.

Rental of clothing does have potential to reduce waste and increase the lifespan of garments, but to achieve a sustainable industry a universal change in business tradition and consumer behaviour is definitely needed.

Responsible procurement, ownership and disposal are vital considerations to create sustainable change for the future of the fashion industry. Today, shoppers are in a position to have more influence and ability to create change than ever before. Meanwhile, the business model is pushing consumers to take a role in creating that change.

What about standardized eco-friendly uniforms for year-round wearing?