The clothing industry has a big impact on the environment. As green issues move up the political agenda (with Europe’s current heatwave perhaps focusing minds), many consumers are looking for eco-friendly options. After all, the garment industry consumes more energy than both aviation and shipping combined, and is responsible for an estimated 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Add to this the problem of microplastics from synthetic fibres, plus toxic chemicals involved in the production process that all end up in the sea.

The problem is exacerbated by so-called “fast fashion“. New clothes are being purchased more and more frequently because of lower prices, and are being worn for a shorter time.

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Gaby calling for a radical ban on anything in our economy that’s not sustainable. How much would the fashion industry be affected by such a demand? Are there enough sustainable alternatives out there for consumers?

To get a response, we spoke to Simone Cipriani, founder of the Ethical Fashion Initiative (ITC, a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation) and Co-Secretary of the United Nations Alliance for Sustainable Fashion. What would he say?

For another perspective, we put the same comment to Maria Spilka, founder of Mädchenflohmarkt, an online second-hand marketplace for buying and selling used designer fashion. How would she respond?

When I try to imagine what it would look like if everything unsustainable was banned, then I imagine going into a shop and finding it completely empty! It currently wouldn’t be possible. If I think through the value-added chain then I think, of course, first about the production of the raw materials; for example, the cotton plantations – starting there the practices are simply not sustainable, not for the environment nor for the farmers on the cotton plantations, also not in terms of being humane.

Production is often addressed in the media: where is something produced? What conditions are the workers under? Then there are also questions such as which chemicals are being used? And which transportation routes? When products are transported from Asia that is, of course, very damaging to the environment. Resources such as water are also used intensively.

So, all of this is unsustainable… For anyone who wants to know a bit more, I’d recommend the Netflix documentary ‘The True Cost’, that captures everything [about ‘fast fashion’] very well. I don’t think it would be possible [to make the fashion industry fully sustainable]. There would then only be alternatives such as wearing second-hand clothes or swapping or borrowing clothes, but it would no longer be possible to buy new clothes.

Next up, we had a comment sent in from Maria, arguing that “fast fashion” is simply a product of globalisation. As long as companies worldwide want to maximize their profits and customers don’t ask any difficult questions, nothing will change. Is she right? How would Simone Cipriani respond?

Should we only buy second-hand clothes? Are we too quick to throw out cheap garments? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

Image Credits: (cc) pixabay – coachmetpassie



22 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Павел

    Yes but on a condition EMP’s lead the way.

  2. avatar
    Rumy

    You mean kill the clothing industry? As well as the factories …? What are you planning to so with the jobless people as a result of the “only buy second-hand clothes”?

  3. avatar
    Olivier

    Oh stop these stupid questions. We live In a free zone… This eco terrorism is so stupid

  4. avatar
    Enric

    Which brand of herb do you smoke?

  5. avatar
    Roxana

    Hmm… I don’t know… Tell me again, do they produce second-hand clothes straightforward?

  6. avatar
    Cãlin

    Is this question for real…?! If this is a real debate subject, then I suppose the result in a few years will be everybody to walk around naked. (Not such a bad idea in the summer, though… :-P )

  7. avatar
    John

    Where do I send the stupid question certificate?

  8. avatar
    Николай

    There should be no limitations. The customers will choose. Either new expensive clothes or used for dimes. The top brand clothes are made by poor people working in near slave conditions.

  9. avatar
    Rajesh

    It shouldn’t even be a topic.
    World economic engine is fueled by consumption .
    If you stop consumption world will collapse.

    • avatar
      Agnieszka

      or improve….

  10. avatar
    John-romi

    We need Fare trade market for cotton farmers , like they did with coffee farmers.

  11. avatar
    Pedro

    Don’t buy what you don’t really need and, if you really need it, keep it for long – this is the first rule of environmental friendliness and it goes for every article.

    • avatar
      Ghislaine

      I’m not a second hand women. For a while are secondhand cloding just fine but not for a lifetime. Poverty isn’t a party.

    • avatar
      Pedro

      my statement doesn’t state anything about buying second-hand…

  12. avatar
    Filipe

    No, we shouldn’t. Clothes made of sustainable natural fibers (as opposed to synthetic) should be encouraged. Positive reinforcement works better than fear. You do have a point, though. We are too quick to throw out our used garments, instead of donating them to those who really need them.

    • avatar
      Eduardo

      donating to a church by the way…

  13. avatar
    Sento

    Do something for people! The minimum salary in Eastern Europe is ridiculous compared to the cost of living! That’s why people are forced to buy second hand things.

  14. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    Unfortunately, a very “poorly” phrased question to impress and discourage reckless consumerism globally!

    As “Pedro” above correctly commented, one should not take this question “literally” but in context! Be sensible and curb blatant, glaring, flagrant and wasteful consumption & over-indulgences- of & in the 1st world foremost!

    These have the money & “buying power” to waste!

    Even people in 3rd world countries are selective nowadays when buying previously worn clothing from “1st world consumers”. Most are collected by NGO’s under the pretense of “donations” for the poor- which in fact are sold per container loads to street & backyard vendors in “underdeveloped” countries for a profit.

    There are numerous examples in the 1st world of what would count to waste & overindulgence- hardly needed to maintain our present western lifestyle.

    I wouldn’t recommend specifically buying “2nd hand clothing- maybe consider to just wear it a few seasons longer!

    A good example for the EU would be to do away with their extravagances of their 2 EU parliaments of Brussels & Strasbourg- but be content with one venue a year only!

    Have a look around you!

  15. avatar
    Nancy Verrees

    It’s easier said than done. Not everybody has the courrage to wear second-hand. There should be more promotion on bying second hand, just to make people aware that nithing’s wrong with second hand. Not only for clothes but also furniture and other materials.

  16. avatar
    catherine benning

    Should we only buy second-hand clothes?

    When the new American UK royal, the one dedicated to charity organisations and the ‘rights of women,’ decides to buy used clothes from her local Oxfam shop, rather than spend tax payers funds on an idiotic £50,000 or more grotesque and in serious poor taste, evening gown, then I will give serious thought to used undies.

    This is another question to insert into the mind of Western populations that spending their hard earned on their own well being is an evil waste of third world money.

    It is also another way to reduce the ability to keep our own production lines busy so all of us can continue to survive by local factories making clothes for us to look good. Here is another inserted mind flash into persuading us to be ragged and help climate change, whilst sending the wealthy another round of your hard cash.

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