Chasing the most recent trend is crucial for most fast fashion brands in today’s market. While pressure for quickness has led to massive economic growth for the companies that do it best, the byproduct is a spike in pollution, waste and energy use- making the fashion industry one of the largest single greenhouse gas emitters on Earth.
- According to the World Economic Forum, up to 85% of textiles end up in landfills every year.
- The Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicts that if nothing is done by 2050 the fashion industry could be responsible for 26% of global carbon emissions!
However, new strategies and technologies purposefully aimed towards cutting down on waste are emerging.
Source: ForbesSince 2000, the amount of clothing being produced has doubled. Over these years, the industry has also seen an increase in the amount of items consumers return.
- Delivery of one item requires approximately 181 grams of CO2 and considering 17 billion products are returned every year, this leads to an emission of approximately 4.7 million metric tons of CO2 annually.
- These emissions are comparable to the amount of power required for 57,000 houses in the U.S. over the course of a year.
- Retailers can now see which items are being viewed more frequently, potentially leading to more accurate orders from suppliers and further decreasing the amount of excess clothing produced.
- With 3DLOOK's YourFit, for example, the software collects data of exact customer sizes anonymously which designers can then use for reference in designing upcoming pieces
Innovating The Dye Process
- With little regulation on where wastewater goes after production is complete, residual dyes and chemicals are often released into bodies of water.
- Up to 200 tons of water are utilized for each singular ton of fabric within the textile industry.
AirDye Solutions has devised the AirDye Method to reduce this immense amount of water being consumed. Not only does this technique require 85 percent less energy, it also uses 90 percent less water than traditional dyeing practices.
How it works: The AirDye approach begins by employing entirely synthetic fibers as the garment’s material.
- Synthetic dyes transfer directly to the garment through the application of heat.
What this means: Dyeing can be done to almost the exact amount of textile customers request, reducing excess fabric that often ends up going to waste.
Source: Textile Today
According to the World Wildlife Fund, 713 gallons of water are involved in the production of one cotton t-shirt. That is equivalent to the amount of water needed to support an adult human for 900 days!
With cotton being in 33 percent of the fibers found in textiles, sustainable changes to how the industry produces garments must begin.
Through innovations in eco-friendly technology, there are several alternatives which can still offer durability and aesthetic while being designed in a more efficient, sustainable way.
- Hemp calls for less water than cotton, can be grown nearly everywhere and can be converted into a variety of products after being recycled.
- Jute is another prime option both in its low energy cost and versatility of applications in the fields of clothing, furniture and even paper.
- There are also even more creative possibilities like muskin, the 100% vegetable leather made solely from mushrooms.
What You Can Do
While these larger scale changes need to be made for the fashion industry to head in a more sustainable direction, there are choices that you can make as an individual. From thrifting to lowering water usage in washing clothes to shopping locally, taking action and raising the awareness of others can have a major impact.
Although it might seem daunting, there are tools that can help! United by Zero’s Chrome Extension is a click away and will tell you how sustainable the clothing you are buying is as well as places you can find eco-friendly alternatives. A greener future can start today.