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Why Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world

Why Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world


According to the United Nations, Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world* thanks to the chemicals, water and oil needed to produce the materials it uses; the impact of its use of plastics, particularly through microplastic pollution of the oceans; its carbon footprint and the quickly discarded mountains of clothes which almost always ends up burned or in landfills.

Most of this boils down to two issues.  Poor materials and a poor business model that produces cheap, disposable clothes.

Poor Materials

The Higg Materials Sustainability Index lists leather, silk, wool and alpaca wool as four of the five least sustainable fabrics (the other is conventional cotton).  That’s mainly because these animal products normally come from factory farming and the deforestation needed to grow enough soy to feed billions of farm animals together with the methane the animals burp and fart out clearly have a massive impact.  When you then add in the effect of transporting them to slaughter houses and on to textile factories, and the chemicals needed to transform flesh into leather and suede, it’s easy to see why these fabrics are so bad.

Conventional cotton relies on ridiculous amounts of pesticides and water (making an average pair of jeans uses 7,500 litres - or about the same amount someone would drink in 7 years).

And most of the alternatives to cotton or animal products are plastics which come from crude oil - 330 million barrels of the stuff every year.  The biggest problem with plastics is also the smallest - simply wearing and washing clothes and shoes with plastics in them releases microplastics. A single wash can release 17 million into the oceans which globally makes clothing the largest source of primary microplastic pollution - dumping the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles into the water every year.

But there are better alternatives out there - whether organic materials like cotton, hemp or linen or environmentally certified materials such as Ecovero™ or Tencel™ .  These materials are also normally of better quality than fast fashion materials - meaning they’re nicer to wear and will last longer.

Poor Business Model

Fast Fashion has taught people that they can get a top or dress for pennies.  But this isn’t just terrible for the people who are paid a tiny fraction of this to make the garments.  It’s also terrible for the planet.

Twice as many garments were produced in 2014 than in 2000.  And one result is they’re also discarded much more quickly.  Almost two thirds of clothes are now kept for less than a year with many being thrown away after just seven or eight wears**.  And almost all of these end up in landfill or the incinerator which, given the amount of plastic in them, isn’t a good thing.

We believe the answer to all of this is to make clothes that can be worn hundreds rather than a handful of times, to make them well and to make them from more sustainable materials.  All backed with our simple promise to be 100% animal and plastic free.

UN article

** McKinsey article