Can fashion ever be sustainable?
The BBC addressed the environmental impact of fashion in a recent article. When we look at our global emissions, fashion accounts for 10% of the global carbon emissions and 20% of wastewater, which is a significant impact. Yet, the problem is more complex than just looking for more sustainable materials or greenwash the impact of the industry with ‘vegan’-labeled plastic. The problem lies at the very heart of how the industry works.
In the past decades, fashion has moved from seasonal collections to micro seasons, creating an ever-intensifying cycle of consuming more. Uncountable influencers look for the next thing and perpetuate the accelerating fly wheel of new trends and fads. A pair of new jeans requires a kilogram of cotton, which in turn requires up to 10,000 liters of water to produce. We are able to produce less impactful, more natural materials, yet to make these ready for market, elastane is used or other plastics to enhance the materials, which reduces recyclability. 70 million barrels of fossil oils are used to make the plastics in our clothes. That’s a number we can hardly comprehend.
But we also produce so much, and the fly wheel spins so fast, that the industry constantly faces overstock and often it’s easier to just put it in landfill or have it burned. At the same time, we require more and more plastic-intensive products with a ‘vegan’ label, meaning we increase the amount of non-degradable products, which we don’t use.
Though as a platform we focus on the automotive branch, a lot of issues are equally interesting as they all concern our choices of materials, ways of sourcing and end-of-life processing. It is becoming abundantly clear that a fix at point A in the supply chain, just creates downstream issues at point B. Looking at the whole supply chain is the way forward, for any material-consuming industry. offers a way forward, life cycle assessments provide a tool to find full-line improvements.
The other side of the coin is the end-markets. If we create products that last, be it a car seat, sofa, shoes or jacket, our impact can be radically reduced. Wearing a pair of shoes for 9 months longer reduces the impact of the item by 20-30%. Limiting ownership similarly has an impact, as in the UK alone half of the garments in one’s closet are never worn and one fifth of items owned by US customers remain unworn.
The path forward is there, and it could include all the materials we love, just produced and used better and with an eye for the whole impact on our planet.
Read the full article here.