E IS FOR ENVIRONMENT
BY: GRACE MALINE
COVER ART: JULIANNA LUKACS
The average fashion consumer wakes up, searches through their closet, and eventually selects the perfect outfit for the day ahead of them. However, what if this consumer knew what happened throughout the production of their favorite items? Most items sitting in your closet, favorite store, or online likely leave a major dent in the environment through its manufacturing process and subsequent value chain. Even with an increasing number of commitments to sustainability within the fashion industry, 8-10% of global carbon emissions are accounted for by producers and consumers, and roughly 20% of wastewater is produced by clothing manufacturing. With climate change spiking partly due to these behaviors, and environmental pollution reaching all-time highs, the fashion industry has sought out ways to reduce their footprint in the ecosystem.
Jeans, a staple in most peoples’ wardrobes, have emerged as one of the most harmful products to our environment. Just a single pair requires a kilogram of cotton, which can only be produced by using 7,5000 - 10,000 liters of water; this number of liters alone translates to around 10 years of one person’s water consumption solely to create the finished product that we see hanging in stores or in our closets. In simpler environmental terms, this means that your go-to, everyday pair of jeans results in 33 kilograms of carbon waste. Better Cotton Initiative and Global Organic Textile Standard have used their platforms to help consumers calculate how sustainable their denim is and help guide them towards more environmentally-conscious brands. Although manufacturers have a long way to go before they can fully minimize their harmful impact on the world, a select few have crafted new ways to reduce their footprints. These inventions include recycling denim and producing pairs that decompose within a few months from the time they’re composted.
While jeans are just one major emitter of carbon, consumers have called for action, and some parts of the fashion industry have taken on the challenge. The athletic industry has begun using plastic waste from the ocean to derive natural materials that are later used in the production of their products. Natural dyes are also replacing chemicals, and fruit skins have gradually emerged as a substitute for fur, allowing for the reduction of harmful fumes and materials into the environment. Other operations beyond production, such as transportation and packaging have the potential to contribute to serious reductions of carbon emissions. Opting for recycled and lighter materials, minimizing returns, and halting overproduction could result in 308 million metric tons of carbon dioxide reduction by 2030. As shown, many of these new initiatives have allowed the industry to turn a new corner, but most brands still need to change their practices in order to lower the cost our wardrobes inflict on the environment. Though the process may be slow-moving, with commitments to sustainability, the fashion industry has the potential to change the global environment for all.