Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Fast Vs. Slow Fashion

The fashion industry needs to fundamentally change in order to mitigate the environmental impact of fast fashion. The researchers produced a report – published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment – into the environmental cost of the industry, and how it needs to change to deal with some of the many associated problems. The fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year, while it is estimated to use around 1.5 trillion litres of water annually.

Among the developments deemed to be exacerbating the environmental harm, is fast fashion – cheap clothes bought and cast aside in rapid succession as trends change.

Dr Patsy Perry, a co-author of the research from Manchester University and an international group of colleagues point out that the global nature of the fashion industry means clothes may have travelled around the world several times during manufacture, while it is estimated that if 3% of garment transportation shifted from ship to air cargo – a burgeoning trend in the industry – it could result in over 100% more carbon emissions than if all garment transportation was by ship. 
The team also points to the industry’s water consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, textile waste, and use of chemicals – substances they say not only pose environmental risks, but health risks for those involved in the industry. “In one example, a single European textile-finishing company uses over 466g of chemicals per kilogram of textile,” they write.
While many garments are designed in the US or EU, they are often produced in developing countries. The team says that not only increases fabric waste through poor communication of requirements, but regulations around pollution are often less strict in the countries of manufacture. “The waste water is going out into freshwater streams and polluting the rivers that people are fishing from and living from,” said Perry.
The report stresses limited natural resources mean the fashion industry must change, and sets out a number of ways it could become greener, including embracing renewable energy and developing new methods for recycling, as well as reducing the use of polyester – a non-biodegradable fibre, produced from petrochemicals, that dominates the fashion industry. They also argue the industry should focus on producing better quality, long-lived items, while innovations like clothes rental and new approaches to resale should be scaled up.
Libby Peake of the Green Alliance said the UK had a particular problem when it came to fast fashion. “We buy more clothing per head than any other country in Europe, including nearly twice as much as Italians, who are better known for their fashion sense,” she said. “Slow fashion is the only sustainable future for the industry and the planet,” she said.

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