The fashion industry is leading to the rapid destruction of our planet
Fashion brands are manufacturing cheap clothing by relying on poorly paid labor in developing countries, inventing inexpensive plastic-based materials and increasing the speed of production.
The fashion industry produced 100 billion pieces of clothing for 7 billion people in 2017. If this scale of production continues it will produce 160 million tons by 2050. The problem is so bad that some brands have opted to burn unsold inventory. There are always looks that nobody wants to buy and when brands roll out thousands of new looks every season the problem of unsold inventory just scales up. This mass production has huge environmental costs.
The Environmental Cost of Clothes Nobody Wants?
In 2018, H&M alone was responsible for $4.3 billion worth of inventory it couldn’t sell. After months of markdowns and extreme sales where the fast-fashion giant was basically begging customers to take the items for next to nothing it ended up incinerating gigantic piles of clothes. Each item burned in that bonfire represents raw materials taken form the earths supply, human labor and transportation. Each step in this process produces emissions in the form of greenhouse gasses that are released into the atmosphere expediting the earths warming. Burning clothing releases 2,988 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) for every megawatt hour.
It is not just H&M, the fashion industry as a whole is overproducing and being left with massive amounts of clothes nobody wants. Brands that move inventory for next to nothing aren’t helping the situation either. Huge markdowns simply move unwanted inventory from warehouses and stores into customer’s closets where they will sit unworn until discarded by the owners who view the garments as valueless and disposable. Again, mass production has huge environmental costs.
What We Don’t Wear
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that on average articles of clothing only get 7 to 10 wears before ending up in landfills. Studies also show that we only really wear 20% of the clothes in our closets. I personally make multiple trips to Goodwill each year to donate clothes I don’t wear so I can make room for new ones. My old donated clothes will most likely end up in a landfill anyway. It’s sad but true. In California, Goodwill spends $7 million yearly on dumping clothes that it can’t sell. It’s no surprise when the clothes nobody wanted to buy in the first place end up in the trash.
Our oceans and landfills are clogged up with decades of discarded clothes made from plastic-based fibers that will never decompose. Synthetic fabrics swept into the oceans stay there forever choking animals that mistake them for food. In the United States we send 21 billion pounds of textiles into landfills every single year. The fashion industry currently uses 98 million tons of oil to make synthetic fibers; it contributes 20% to the world’s water pollution and generates 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases yearly.
Mass Production Equals Huge Environmental Costs
Activists, world leaders and the public at large are evaluating the way in which the fashion industry is accelerating the pace of climate change. A United Nations report forecasts the world’s temperature will increase 2.7 degrees by 2040. A rise in temperature of this amount will cause the flooding of our coastlines, will intensify droughts, will permanently damage, if not kill, the coral reefs and will lead to world wide food shortages.
One thing is clear: The fashion industry is propelling climate change and it’s got to stop. Brands are producing way too many clothes and they’re convincing us that it’s normal to buy more than we need. A big part of the problem is that we’ve stopped treating our clothes as durable, long-term purchases. Brands have a responsibility to produce less, but we have a responsibility to consume less. When brands offer durable clothes and accessories designed to outlast fashion trends, designs that can be worn anywhere, from work to dinner to a party, that are meant to sustain season after season, pieces that respond to a clear need in the market, then consumers can create a signature style made up of classic long-lasting and versatile pieces. A style that is timeless and designed to last a lifetime.
Take Some Responsibility
Take a stand with me and tell fashion brands we have had enough. Stop making me think it is normal to shop all the time and not just when I need something. You drop new items every day, then send me emails customized to my tastes telling me I must buy before the items sell out. Instead of idealizing newness focus on quality, durability and classic looks that never go out of style. Our only chance at stopping this cycle of overproduction and over consumption is to use conspicuous conservation to adapt intentional buying habits. If we fail at this it will give a new literal meaning to the old saying, All dressed up with nowhere to go. Think about it.
Ready to start shopping with intention and building your personal style? Use my tips to choose signature pieces you can mix and match to make unlimited outfits.
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