With humans now consuming 400% more clothing than we were 20 years ago, we are buying more clothes than ever, yet wearing them a lot less. A lot of this can be explained by the growth of fast fashion in the past two decades. However, the over-consumption of cheaply-made clothing has led to a massive growth of textile waste, pollution, and the depletion of natural resources—not to mention the human rights violations that are becoming increasingly harder to ignore.
Here are the top four reasons sustainable fashion is important, examined a little further.
1. Sustainable Fashion Creates Less Waste
Globally, one garbage truck of textile waste is burned or dumped at a landfill every second. This enormous amount of waste is a result of fast fashion companies launching new clothing collections and fashion trends every week, sometimes even in a matter of days, and fulfilling them with poor quality and cheaply priced products. It used to be that the fashion industry had four seasons; it now has 52 (even more depending on the fast fashion brand).
Slow fashion opposes fast fashion, favouring conscious production, distribution, and mindful consumerism. Slow fashion brands practice sustainability by ensuring that each piece of apparel is quality made, priced higher, and long-lasting.
2. Sustainable Fashion Reduces CO2 Pollution and Other Greenhouse Gas Emissions
With fast fashion being responsible for 10% of the world’s total carbon footprint, resulting from material creation, manufacturing, transportation, and textile waste decomposing in landfills, sustainable fashion focuses on the environment and keeping its carbon footprint as minimal as possible.
Most fast fashion clothes are made from petroleum-based materials such as acrylic, nylon, and polyester. As such, production and disposal require a significant amount of energy. On the other hand, sustainable fashion uses biodegradable material from natural or recycled fabric, requiring less energy, less water, little to no chemical treatment, and no pesticides or fertilizers to grow.
3. Sustainable Fashion Saves Natural Resources
Research from 2020 shows that 97% of what goes into making clothes are new resources, with only 3% being recycled materials. This adds up to an annual supply input of 98 million tons. This includes oil to produce synthetic fibres, fertilizers to make cotton and an extensive list of chemicals used to dye and finish fabric.
Recycled fibres used by sustainable brands have been proven to lessen pressure on virgin resources and tackle problems of the waste management system.
Additionally, the fashion industry is one of the largest water consumers in the world. Water is not only consumed by the washing of garments, but also during the manufacturing, dyeing, and finishing processes of clothing. In fact, to make a single a single cotton shirt, it takes about 2,720 litres of water and 7,000 litres for one pair of jeans. Clothing production also pollutes freshwater with toxic chemicals that find their way into waterways.
Most sustainable fashion brands have “water on budget” policies that limit water usage during clothing production. Further, sustainable fashion prioritizes organic fabric made from linen, hemp, and organic cotton, which require little to no water during the production phase.
4. Sustainable Fashion Ensures Safe Working Conditions
Most fast fashion brands produce garments in developing countries where workers are paid unfair wages. Poor safety and health conditions, long working hours, and verbal and physical exploitation are all common occurrences for garment workers in the fast fashion industry. On top of this, frequent child labour accusations have been brought against fast fashion brands.
Eco-ethical brands work to provide fair wages, humane working conditions, and health care for all workers. Brands genuinely following ethical and sustainable practices are transparent about child labour, providing detailed information about the production process, working conditions, etc.