It’s a big day for you: you may be putting your best foot forward in a job interview, heading to a party where you’re meeting new people, going on that exciting first date, or (finally) meeting up with some friends for lunch after what feels like a lightyear of quarantine. One of the biggest parts of preparation: your outfit. Whether you do actually have a big day or not, clothing will literally touch your life daily. The textile industry, encompassing the fashion industry, is one of the largest categories of manufacturing in the world. Unfortunately, it is also responsible for a host of environmental and social issues, including mass amounts of waste going to landfills and the exploitation of millions of garment workers globally. As a participant in the fashion industry, it is important to know the facts about it, and understand your role in minimizing the impact your clothes have on the planet and its people.
One of the main issues within the fashion industry is fast fashion, which is the mass production of cheap, disposable clothing. Clothing is made at a faster rate and with cheaper labor and materials, which results in trends from the high fashion world being accessible to the public quickly and affordably. While this is an attractive concept, the consequences are quite trashy. Because the fast fashion clothing is made with lower value materials, it is not built to last and often is unwearable within a few years. This results in clothing going to landfill, and the consumer having to buy clothes more regularly, which ends up being more costly in the long run than buying clothes that are made to last.
Impacts on the environment
Waste is a major issue when it comes to fast fashion. In addition to consumers sending unusable clothing to landfills, the manufacturing of clothing results in massive amounts of textile waste due to companies over ordering materials that they end up not needing. Annually, global textile waste amounts to a whopping 13 million tons, with each consumer throwing away 70 pounds per year. Textiles take up to 80 years to break down in landfills, so the waste that could be recycled or mitigated through better business practices piles up and stays around. Another issue with fast fashion is the variety of pollutants that result from production of clothing, which is the third largest industry in the world. Improper treatment and disposal of water and chemicals used to create and dye clothing poses serious threats to our waterways.
Impacts on people
Fast fashion is not only harmful to the environment, but to people that work in the supply chain making clothing as well. One in six people in the world works in a fashion related job, and 80% of these people are women. Because the concept of fast fashion is to mass produce clothes at the lowest possible cost, one of the areas that brands cut costs is wages for their employees. 93% of brands are not paying their employees a living wage, and workers face unsafe and exploitative working conditions. These conditions can result in disastrous consequences, such as the infamous 2013 collapse of the Dharka garment factory in Bangladesh that killed over a thousand people.
Mitigate your impact
We all have to participate in the fashion industry (unless you’re a nudist, and we support your right to express yourself!), so how do we do so without causing harm to the environment and to the hardworking people who make our clothes? Thankfully, there are some great resources out there that can help connect you with apparel brands around the world that prioritize environmental and socially sustainable practices.
- Good Market is a platform that was built to create a 21st century economy that is good for people and good for the planet. It has rated nearly 2,000 brands around the world based on their environmental and social impact, and provides consumers with sustainable shopping options.
- Good On You has developed a rating system to evaluate apparel and accessory brands globally based on their impact on the planet, people, and animals. When making a purchase, check to see if the brand you’re thinking of supporting is listed in their ever-expanding
- Flourish! Not to toot our own horn, but we at Flourish are committed to providing apparel that protects people and the planet. All of our talented artisans and partners use materials that are environmentally friendly, and the producers are compensated fairly for their skills and hard work.
Another great option for minimizing your impact is by participating in the secondhand clothing economy. Find your local thrift store and hunt for the perfect vintage outfit, which is fun and eco-friendly, and also cost effective. If you don’t want to spend time in a store, no worries! There are many great online options for buying secondhand clothing from the comfort of your home. If you are looking to make space in your closet, donate your items rather than putting them in the trash. Many organizations take gently used clothing and accessories and use them to create a positive impact. Our partner Soles4Souls, for example, takes donated shoes and clothing and uses it to help women entrepreneurs around the world start their own used clothing businesses, or to provide disaster relief items to areas and communities in need.
We wish you the best of luck on your journey to greener living! Be sure to look out for more tips in future articles, and feel free to contact us if there is a topic you would be interested to learn about; chances are people in the Flourish community are looking for the same information, and we’ll give you a shout-out for your participation!