Sustainable Fashion Week knows that clothes are a part of everyone’s lives. That’s why they know it’s important to be considerate to the planet when it comes to our clothing habits. This is especially so in the UK; as a nation, we buy more clothes per person than any other country in Europe. Our growing textile consumption is responsible for a carbon footprint of roughly 26.2 million tonnes per year, which could contribute to as much as a quarter of the global carbon budget if consumption continues to escalate in this way.
The impact of fashion on the environment
‘Fast Fashion’ is widely understood as low-cost, quick-turn-around clothing based on luxury trends that encourage disposability. It has dominated the industry over the past decade, worsening many of the negative environmental impacts that are caused by clothing production. We seem to constantly desire the latest trends, and companies are capitalising on huge consumer demand for new, cheap clothing. Currently, the rate of both production and consumption have become completely unsustainable.
Large carbon footprint
The processes involved in making a single piece of clothing can have detrimental effects on the planet. The growth of cotton is heavily reliant on water, so much so it has caused the disappearance of the Aral Sea. This has left many cotton producing countries having to choose between cotton production and drinking water. Other synthetic fibres, such as polyester, rely much less heavily on water in comparison to cotton. However, they emit double the amount of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram as they are made from petroleum-based products. Rising demand for clothes means that resources are constantly flown between continents for each stage of production, before finally being sold. This process has resulted in large carbon footprints of our garments.
Pollution from microfibers
Additionally, the microfibers found in our clothes are proven to be a harmful to our oceans and aquatic eco-systems too. Studies have shown that around 700,000 synthetic microfibers can be released into the ocean in one domestic wash-cycle. Given the environmental impact our clothes have already had before they even get to us, it is important we consider the way in which we care for them.
Harsh chemicals in detergents
Harsh chemical detergents can actually cause damage to our clothes, especially if they are poor quality and not designed to last. Over-washing your clothes with harmful chemicals can lead to the breakdown of their fibers. This affects the appearance and quality, leaving us wanting to throw them out and buy new.
Substances such as ammonia, phenols, phosphates and nitrogen are some of the common chemicals found in conventional laundry detergents. These products cause skin problems, as well as being harmful to aquatic life systems and downstream waterways too. This results in a process called eutrophication, where the chemicals react and stimulate the growth of algae. When this happens, the oxygen in the water gets used up, causing the overall levels to deplete and ruin the water’s eco-system. These chemicals reduce the surface tension of the water, which is essential for preventing other pollutants and pesticides from being absorbed. Most don’t dilute well with water either, breaking down (if at all) into more toxic by-products. On top of this, many detergents are packaged in completely un-recyclable materials, contributing to existing landfills.
How can we keep negative environmental impact to a minimum?
A great way we can keep fashion’s environmental impact to a minimum is to use natural, plant-based detergents. These are as effective, if not more, as popular detergent brands. When shopping for detergents, try and look out for those that:
- Use recyclable/re-fillable packaging,
- Are certified vegan and animal cruelty free
- Are free from toxic chemicals
- Use organic ingredients where possible
- Made in the UK
Ecozone’s laundry products are packaged in recyclable and recycled materials, are safe for aquatic life and, of course, eco-friendly. You can shop the range of laundry products at ecozonedirect.com.
Introducing Sustainable Fashion Week
SFW are so pleased to be sponsored by Ecozone, who specialise in producing low impact, plant-based laundry products. Changing how you care for your clothes is a great way to reduce our clothing’s environmental impact. Washing and caring for our clothes is one part of the garment’s lifecycle that is completely within our power, so in order to change our relationship with clothing we need to re-think how we shop and care for our garments: increasing their longevity and reducing the harmful effects on the environment.
To change your relationship with clothing, become an activist and get involved with the Sustainable Fashion Week. We want to inspire people to re-connect with themselves and their communities to step back and think about their relationship with clothing. We want people to learn new skills and fall in love with their wardrobes again through re-purposing and re-generating with what they have already. And finally, we want people to understand that the most sustainable piece of clothing is the one that is already inside our wardrobes, and by caring for our clothes properly we can continue to re-wear them for as long as possible before they end up on landfill.
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