Conscious Fashion

Every single purchase you and I choose (or don't choose) can make a lasting difference on the health of our planet and the continuity of human life itself. Call me dramatic, maybe, but I think we are at the point as a society where we could use a little bit more drama surrounding the climate change conversation. Fashion alone spans multiple harmful industries, from agriculture, livestock, forestry, and mining, to petroleum, transportation, manufacturing, and waste. At every point in its production and disposal, a garment can have a resounding effect both on the environment and on the people who take part in its manufacture, distribution, wear, and disposal. For something as close to us as the clothes on our backs, I would think that more people would be concerned over what those clothes are made of and how. I will attempt to share my knowledge of the subject with you here and it is my hope that you will learn to be a more informed and conscious consumer... 

For all of our sakes.



What Is Sustainable Fashion?

To begin to define "sustainable fashion," it helps to understand what it is not. It is not sustainable to buy a cheaply made shirt for $5 that likely contains various hazardous chemicals in its threads, to wear it twice until it inevitably gets some hole in it or goes out of style the next week, then to toss it away to sit in a landfill for the next few hundred years seeping waste into the surrounding environment. Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world. Let that sink in. The top five worst industries are electricity, oil/gas, transportation, livestock, and fashion--but fashion actually uses each of those other industries for its purposes. 

Sustainable implies that the resource used to create a product is utilized in such a way that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. 

Fashion is hard to define. Lets say it is a prevailing set of trends particular to any given time or space. Fashion communicates in visual codes and across many contexts, differing vastly from one culture to another, from one socioeconomic level to another, and so on. 


The Materials

Fabrics are created from fibers which are derived either from natural sources, like cotton, or from synthetics, like silicone. 

The water

Fashion is the second largest consumer and polluter of water. Yet over a billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. It takes about 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pair of jeans--enough to provide drinking water to at least 6 people for an entire year. With over a billion pairs of jeans sold each year we could presumably solve the water crises with the denim industry alone. Obviously it's not quite so simple, but it is mind boggling where our priorities lie as a society. We'd rather have the cutest new flared denim than give clean water to our fellow man. 

The Energy

This is a pretty broad category as there are so many various touch-points where the fashion industry utilizes energy, rarely from clean sources. We can consider the electricity powering the farms and mills that are harvesting the raw materials, the factories that turn the raw materials into fabrics, those that produce the products, and those that distribute the products. We can also look at the energy for transportation. You may be shocked by the journey your clothes take before they reach you as a consumer. For example for a simple shirt the cotton is farmed in America, sent to Bangladesh to be processed into fabric, the fabric is sent to another factory in Bangladesh to be sewn, the garment is sent to China to be printed, it is then shipped to warehouses in coastal ports like Los Angeles, then loaded onto trucks to be brought to the store where you'll purchase it or to be shipped to your home if ordered online. Most of the energy used through the supply chain is provided by carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

The Waste

In America alone, over 14 million tons of textiles are thrown away each year.



Climate Change

I'm not going to feign to explain the entirety of climate change here, but I want to be unequivocally clear: climate change is happening, it is real, there is no doubt or confusion to whether it is happening, and it is being caused in large part by human activity. Despite some large-scale efforts to deny climate change (funded mainly by corrupt corporations like Exxon who have a huge stake in how the public perceives carbon emissions) the science is certain.