We know, as environmentally conscious individuals know that every consumer product has some sort of impact on the environment. And we understand that it is our responsibility to weigh the effects of a product when choosing what we will purchase and consume. But, have we ever stopped to consider the effects that the textile and apparel industries have on our environment?
Well, maybe you have. Maybe you purchase the majority of your families clothing second hand or maybe you even make some of your own clothing. Maybe you try to buy your clothing and home goods from companies that focus on sustainability. Or, maybe you have never given it much thought….
As you know, the textile industry uses natural fibers and synthetic fibers. Natural fibers are things such as cotton, hemp, and animal fibers. While synthetic fibers, such as nylon and polyester are produced from petrochemicals. Well, how do we know which one has more or less of an environmental impact? I personally think there may be no right or wrong answer to this question. Therefore, we must first weight the facts.
Consider this…natural fibers are very wasteful and energy hungry. For example; natural fibers first have to be grown, right? Let’s talk cotton; pesticides and fertilizers are used by the farmers, spinning and weaving the cloth uses large amounts of electricity and produces harmful air pollutants, the machinery contributes to that air pollution as well as noise pollution, dying of greige goods uses hazardous chemicals to bleach the textiles before they are ever dyed or printed (which also uses a great amounts of energy, water and harmful chemicals that often contamination our waters). This is just the process to create the textile. Not to mention the production of the apparel or home goods themselves. And on top of all of that, let’s think about the working conditions and the child labor often practiced by this industry.
The textile industry is considered one of the most polluted sectors of the apparel industry.
The truth is that I am not sure and this has been weighing on me heavily since I made the decision to change careers in my late 20’s. I was working a dental professional, selling “health” if you will, and by my mid 20’s I decided to pursue my passion for design. Little did I know what I was getting into! Since starting in this industry now more than several years ago, I have really begun to see the effects that “fast fashion” has on the environment.
The real problem seems to be the sheer amount of manufacturing that is happening. “Fast Fashion” is greatly responsible for this happening. The fashion industry as a whole is constantly changing, never static, therefore these companies are manufacturing loads of new apparel every season. And they are not producing quality goods either. Many of these garments are falling apart after you wear them just once, or the fabrics never withstand a washing…leaving discarding the garment as the only option. You cannot even donate some these pieces!
What are we to do?
So, maybe we could invest in more expensive apparel to ensure that we get better quality and can get the most out of our wardrobe. Or, we could make all of our own clothing, which probably isn’t going to happen! Maybe we could consider Eco-fashion, which uses organic raw materials, does not use harsh chemicals and dyes, often uses recycled fibers, are made to last the long haul, and practice fair trade. We can seek out independent designer practicing Eco-Fashion and purchase textiles from Eco-friendly textile suppliers.
I do not know how to solve this situation that we are facing. But I do know that our planet is suffering and simply cannot keep up with the amount of manufacturing and consumption that is happening on a global scale. I myself am guilty of purchasing the cheap, fast fashion. I even own like 10 pairs of jeans, which is one of the biggest offenders! I admit to purchasing yards upon yards of wasteful fabrics, only to let them sit in a crate in the closet.
I never considered the effects of fashion on the environment until pursuing a degree in apparel design. I mean, clothing was natural, it was a part of who I was…So, what’s next?
I am being pressured to visit the factories in China later this year. This will be the first time for me since I have begun working in the industry. Part of me is really excited to see what it is really like, and the other part of me is terrified, because maybe I don’t really want to know. Maybe if I see, I might have to go back to selling health!
WHAT DO YOU THINK? HOW DO PRACTICE ECO-FASHION? WHERE DO YOU BUY YOUR CLOTHES AND TEXTILES?
I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS VITAL, YET WASTEFUL INDUSTRY.