Environmental Impact of Fashion Industry and Various Initiatives by Brands
By Ash Oak
While the steep fall in garment prices over the last twenty years allowed us to add more clothes to our closets, it comes at a tremendous environmental and social cost. The fashion industry is the second-largest polluter in the world.
According to statistics, the US throws away 11.3 million tons of textile waste each year, and it also accounts for a fifth of the 300 million tons of plastic produced globally. Since the impact of fast fashion come in all forms, the need for shifting to sustainable fashion is evident.
Here’s the complete guide to the environmental impact caused by the fashion industry and initiatives taken by various brands to promote sustainability.
Environmental Impacts caused by the Fashion Industry?
1. Affecting Marine Life
Polyester has overtaken cotton and become a new backbone of the textile industry. Garments made from polyester are a prime source of micro-plastic pollution, which is extremely dangerous for marine life.
The average wash cycle releases 700,000 microfibers into the water system, affecting the sea creatures. About 90% of seabirds have plastic in their stomach, and over 100k marine mammals are killed by plastic debris each year.
2. Trash and landfills are everywhere.
More and more clothing is being produced than ever, McKinsey and World Economic Forum suggest estimates that the number of garments manufactured each year has almost doubled since 2000.
However, only a fraction of what’s produced gets recycled, and around 87% of the total fibre input used for clothing is eventually incinerated in a landfill. The US throws about 70 pairs of pants per person into waste each year. Studies also suggest that people generally throw out clothing after wearing it seven to ten times.
3. Greenhouse impact
The modern textile industry relies heavily on petrochemical products from oils and gas companies driving greenhouse gas emissions. According to UN Environment Program, the fashion industry accounts for up to 10% of global carbon-dioxide output, which is way more than international flights and shipping combined.
What initiatives are taken by brands to promote sustainability?
Sustainability has become a significant focus of fashion brands over the past decade. Here’s how brands are taking a step.
1. Inditex’s Zara
A leading apparel brand, Zara needs no special introduction. Recently, Inditex-owned Zara announced its commitment to sell 50% of items made with recycled materials in 2022. They also pledged to use 100% more sustainable cotton by 2023 and cellulosic fibers by 2025.
The online-first intimate and loungewear brand launched an initiative called Second Life to gather and recycle underwear. It allows customers to mail back their used underwear to prevent them from ending up in landfills.
The famous clothing brand, Boohoo, has recently launched a new collection under the name of “Ready for the future.” This range uses recycled materials to promote sustainability.
This leading brand has increased its share of recycled materials used in the garments three times. It also uses 65% of materials from sustainable or recycled resources and reduces plastic packaging by 27.8%.
5. The Pearl Source
This leading pearl jewelry brand is taking up a role in helping non-profits that cater to women’s issues, and they set aside a percentage of sales to help women.