Did you know that in 2017, internet searches for “sustainable fashion” spiked during the fall and spring fashion seasons? It was even rated as a top issue for the industry during McKinsey’s 2017 State Of Fashion. However, what separates fact from fiction in sustainable fashion can be confusing to those not from the industry. Here’s a quick primer from your fashionable Raul E New York family:
Consumerism is on the rise
Let’s face it: consumers are buying more clothes and they’re tossing even more out the window. According to the EPA, we threw away more than 16 million tons of clothing in 2014, which is 71% more than what we did in 2000 and a whopping 822% more than in 1960. The good news is that the number of clothing that has been recycled has increased from a miniscule 3% in 1960 to 16% in 2014. The increase is a welcome development, but the volume of discarded clothes far outweighs our improvements.
Better manufacturing should be prioritized
Clothing manufacturing will just keep on rising, and a stronger middle class means more money will be spent on the growing demand for goods and services. The apparel industry has a big impact on people, our land, and water usage. While the industry employs around 60 million people around the globe, many of these jobs can be unsafe or pay unreasonably low salaries.
Cotton farming seems safe enough, but looking into the practice means finding out that it is responsible for 24% of insecticide use and 11% of pesticide use despite only using around 2.5% of global arable land. It also uses a significant amount of water, with around 713 gallons of it being needed to grow enough cotton for a simple t-shirt alone. Incorrect irrigation techniques have also led to extensive damage to our bodies of water, such as the shrinking of the Aral Sea in Central Asia.
Fashion’s carbon footprint
Estimates of the fashion industry’s annual carbon footprint range from 330 million to 832 million tons of carbon dioxide for clothing production alone. This is enough to heat and power anywhere from 31 million to 79 million homes for an entire year. A different study estimated that textile scraps reach around 120,000 square kilometres of waste left over from production every year. Put together, this is bigger than the whole country of Nicaragua.
How can consumers support sustainability in the fashion industry?
Supporting fast fashion has to go. Purchasing apparel made with sustainable materials or using similar practices needs to be the norm. At Raul E New York, we put the spotlight on sustainable products, with pieces handpicked by Silvana herself. Make sure to support businesses that value sustainability (like us!) and you might be surprised at the positive impact you’re sure to make.
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