The fashion industry experiences rapid turnaround time in terms of new designs and products with brands rolling out a new collection every season. With new designs coming in every season, consumers are eager to get their hands on the latest in fashion. But there’s an intriguing question that needs answering, what happens to all the old clothes that are discarded? This is the very reason why the fashion industry is considered the most wasteful industry. Numerous reports have pointed out that less than 1% of clothing is recycled into new pieces and at this rate, the fashion industry will consume one-fourth of the world’s annual carbon budget by 2050. Currently, this industry is second only to oil and gas industry in terms of industrial pollution. So how can the fashion industry clean up its carbon footprint?
Sustainable Materials Sourcing
Majority of the fashion retailers are looking to design clothes using sustainable materials, tackling the pollution issue at the source. Using sustainable materials like organic cotton, BT cotton, soy, hemp, bamboo, PET Plastic, and Qmilk helps increase recyclability and reduce fashion waste. For instance, Adidas collaborated with Parley Ocean Plastic to create limited-edition shoes using plastics that would otherwise end up in the ocean.
Supply Chain Clean-up
Cotton is one of the most commonly used raw material in the fashion industry. Since organic cotton is considered expensive to grow, manufacturers use various toxic chemicals in the production process. In 2013, a UK agency found that 29% of the imported cotton innerwear’s contained NPE, which was released in initial washes by the consumer. Chlorinated solvents, NPEO, azo dyes, heavy metals, chlorobenzenes, and phthalates are some of the toxic chemicals used in textile manufacturing. Greenpeace Org has been running “Detox my Fashion” campaign for a long time to encourage consumer and brands to show their commitment towards detoxing their clothes.
Most consumers aren’t aware of the wasteful nature of the fashion industry and neither the toxic chemicals released by the synthetic materials. Marketing campaigns to educate consumers of such wasteful nature of the fashion industry can lead to changes in consumer behavior so that they choose brands which are less wasteful. For instance, the campaign by Fashion Revolution, #whomademyclothes has inspired consumers to make responsible fashion choices. The campaign made consumers more conscious to question the origin of their products, materials used, and production process. A recent Neilsen study revealed that around 66% of the consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services that come from companies that are environmentally committed.
The textile industry is indulging in a lot of research and development activities to identify new materials and processes to reduce the wastage. Some discoveries directly reduce the overall carbon footprint whereas others significantly increase the applications and functions of the product. For instance, materials such as faux leather, tea, and ocean plastics can reduce the carbon footprint and also significantly improve the fabric performance.