Fashion… it plays a very important part in our lives, but have you ever considered the fact that something you wear everyday has a significant impact on our environment? The socio-economic and environmental impacts of fashion are barely discussed enough. Many people associate environmental problems and climate change with the numerous plastic bottles in the ocean or driving cars too much, but garment production and use is a major contributor to environmental problems.
Therefore, the British School in the Netherlands is organizing a sustainable fashion show ( Monday 18th March) to highlight this, and also to create a fun and educational experience for everyone.
We have decided to inform you about sustainable fashion and what you can do to help the environment by changing the way you think about fashion production. Have fun reading!
- Impacts of the fashion industry
The fashion industry has a large impact on the environment in many different ways. Its most prominent impact is its water footprint. A normal, basic outfit may not be as normal as you think in regards to the amount of water that is used to make it. A single pair of jeans takes an average of 7,000 litres of water to produce, a T-shirt takes an average of 1,000 litres, and a pair of leather shoes takes up to 8,000 litres. That is a total of 16,000 litres of water that go into your average outfit. 16,000 litres of water is enough to provide one person with drinking water for approximately 13-14 years. That’s just one outfit: in the entire fashion industry, about 1.5 trillion litres of water are used per year worldwide.
The fashion industry also leaves a giant carbon footprint: it makes up 10% of global CO2 emissions and also releases 1.26 billion tons of greenhouse gases every year. Furthermore, 85% of textiles end up in landfills yearly, about 21 billion tons each year. Which is made even worse by the fact that 99% of used clothes are, in fact, recyclable, but only an average of 17% are actually recycled.
Another major way in which the environment is affected by fashion is materials or items of clothing that are being imported over large distances. Many clothes that are made in Bangladesh and China are imported to Europe and America which creates a massive carbon footprint and significantly increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. Sustainable fashion companies have been trying to use materials that do not have to be imported and sell their items locally.
Fashion also has socio-economic impacts. Apparel workers, mainly women, in Bangladesh have a salary of about $96 per month. The government said that the workers need 3.5 times that amount in order to live a “decent life with basic facilities”. Moreover, a report in 2018 found evidence of forced labour and child labour in the fashion industry in many countries, including Argentina, Bangladesh, China, India, Brazil, Philippines, Indonesia, Turkey and Vietnam.
2. Global Sustainable Fashion
More and more sustainable fashion brands such as Kings of Indigo, Everlane and ThreadUp are starting to sell eco- friendly clothing as researchers are finding new ways to reuse more materials: for example, Adriana Santanocito and Enrica Arena are two university students who invented a material called Orange Fiber made completely of citrus and now they are selling clothes made from it.
Sustainable materials are not the only way to make what we wear more eco-friendly: some people have been opening swap-shops where you can go and swap clothes that you don’t want or can’t wear anymore for somebody else’s pre-loved clothing, like a second hand but instead of throwing away and wasting materials that will take a long time to decompose, somebody else will be able to wear the clothes that you don’t want anymore.
Another way old clothes or materials are being recycled is by transforming them into something new. This can be done easily at home as well. For example; you could turn a shirt into a bag, or a pair of trousers into shorts. Shoes are also starting to be made more sustainably. For example, an Italian company has started to make shoes out of recycled plastic collected locally so that it wouldn’t end up in landfills or in the sea where it could seriously harm the sea life. Companies like Lur® apparel collect paper and plastic to create a wide range of clothing and accessories. Sustainable fashion only became a solution to some environmental issues recently and all the progress that is being made recently is really important as it’s already starting to have an impact on the environment. Some famous clothing companies and designers are also starting to exchange the materials they use for more eco-friendly options. Sustainable fashion stores are becoming more popular and are being opened in different places so that more people can buy sustainable clothing without it having to be imported far away so that there are also less carbon emissions. Also check to see if there are any clothing donation collection points in your area, clothing donations is also a solution as the clothes go to people who may not be able to buy new clothes.
3. The BSN Sustainable Fashion Project
As you probably already know, the BSN is organizing a sustainable fashion show on Monday the 18th of March.
The fashion show is entirely organized by a group of very hard-working students who have been working on the fashion show for months to produce a fun, unique and educational environment so that everyone can enjoy the evening.
You can expect to see a lot of activities for everyone to participate in on the day, such as:
1. A photography session
2. Being a model for the show
3. A lot of interesting and creative booths for the audience to participate in, such as: guess the facts, who made my clothes? and rank the brands in order of sustainability.
3. The clothes swap shop, where anyone can bring in their pre-loved clothes and swap them for other pre-loved clothes
4. Designing outfits for the fashion show out of recycled materials
5. Each house designing their own fashion brand to be featured in the show
6. And of course, watching the show itself!
The show itself will consist of models (students) walking down the stage wearing sustainable outfits that students have designed themselves within the activities. There will also be some sustainable brands featured, such as Kings of Indigo.
The evening will be buzzing with excitement and there will be a lot of lovely music, food and hand- made decorations! The plan is for the food to be vegetarian and healthy .
Finally, the sustainable fashion show will be an experience for students to learn more about the impacts of fashion and what kind of possibilities there are for us to get involved.
We recorded a brief interview we had with the leader of the sustainable fashion project Alysha. Here is the video:
4. How is sustainable fashion made?
The fashion industry is rapidly increasing with more companies taking on sustainable fashion.
Sustainable fashion aims to make clothes out of eco-friendly resources and it also aims to make clothes in a sustainable way, both environmentally and socio-economically friendly.
Sustainable clothing is mostly made out of organic material, such as: soy, cotton, silk, bamboo and kombucha. However, sustainable fashion isn’t just wearing organic sheep wool, there are a lot of other ways sustainable fashion is made, here are some examples:
- using mushroom mycelium to create textiles
- cultivating microbes as an alternative to toxic synthetic dyes
- 3D seamless knitting to reduce waste and labour
- “zero waste”, not letting any material go to waste in the production process(e.g: cutting a textile and making sure that none of the material goes to waste)
- using locally imported resources to reduce carbon footprint
5. What can you do?
We’re sure you’re wondering how you can help the environment and be more sustainable with fashion. Don’t worry… here are our top 8 tips!
Donate unwanted clothes– Donating clothes will not only reduce the use of landfill sites, but also help others to be more sustainable
Buy second -hand clothes– There are a lot of high-quality second- hand clothes that you can buy to save the entire negative impact of production
Clothes swap– Swap your clothes with another person/ group! This is a very fun and sustainable way to give your old clothes new life. The Sustainable fashion show team is organizing a swap shop where you can swap your clothes with other people. Make sure to check it out!
Buy clothes that were made in your local area– since clothes transportation releases a lot of CO2, buying clothes that were made in your local area instead of somewhere 4000km away can really make a difference!
Buy 100% materials– this means that you should only buy clothes that are 100% cotton, for example. Doing this, you can recycle clothes easier since there is no technology at the moment to separate blended fibres.
Only buy clothes that contain organic cotton– organic cotton reduces the use of chemicals such as pesticides that harm our environment. It also reduces the amount of water used in the process. It’s a win-win!
Spend your money on trans- seasonal clothes– buying clothes that will only last you for 2 months in a year isn’t exactly sustainable. Buying clothes that will work for all seasons, such as jeans and jackets will easily make your closet automatically more sustainable
Only buy clothes that you are sure you’ll wear– A major contributor to wasting clothes is that people buy whatever they want even if they are not 100% sure that they will wear it. TOP TIP: Livia Firth, the founder of Eco age, introduced the #30wears campaign to persuade people to be more sustainable. So, ask yourself, will I wear this a minimum of 30 times? Remember: even if you just take baby- steps you can help the environment dramatically.
Thank you for reading our article! We hope it has informed you about sustainable fashion and how you can make a difference just by changing the clothes you wear and how you use them.