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