Our modern world is so drastically different from any in humanity’s past. Almost everyone can consume and accumulate just as many possessions as the rich and powerful.
But that ability comes at a terrible cost.
Most of us have probably heard the term “Sustainable Fashion”. But this doesn’t mean that we understand it.
It was only very recently that I, personally, began to fully grasp everything that it entails. Not only does it affect the sweat shop workers who are bullied. Paid less than fair wage and forced to work in atrocious conditions. Fast and unethical fashion also affects the environment. We see everything from
And so much more…
The first step in the life of a garment is the growing of raw materials. Although cotton is a much better alternative to artificial fibres such as polyester and viscose, large scale farming can have horrible effects to the surrounding environment. More and more often, farmers are choosing to use crop dusting. This technique is less time consuming and labour intensive. However, spraying large amounts of toxins results in the excess getting into local bodies of water and seeping into the ground. It also tends to hang around in the air.
It is common knowledge by now that producing cotton requires excessive amounts of water. The global average water footprint is 10,000 litres per 1kg of cotton. The US uses 8,000 per 1kg. This is having a devastating effect on our limited water supply. For example, the Aral sea in central Asia. It was the fourth largest lake in the world. Now, it is all but gone due to cotton farming in the area.
Not all hope is lost though. Cotton Australia maintains that the nation’s industry is “the most water-efficient in the world”.
Next comes processing and dyeing.
India has seen exorbitant amounts of toxic dyes and by-products dumped into the Ganges. All due to an ever-growing search for cheap leather. A river that is a lifeline to millions of locals. Home to over 140 fish species. The habitat of 90 different amphibious species, and the home of the endangered south eastern river dolphin. This is not only an immediate threat to India, but also could have disastrous effects on the global ecosystem. The Ganges connects with the Bay of Bengal. A north-eastern part of the Indian ocean.
This is an issue that not only affects India, but rivers all over the world. “There is a joke in China that you can tell the ‘in’ colour of the season by looking at the river…” States the opening line of Riverblue.
Perhaps the most commonly heard of issue in the fashion industry is the massive amounts of textile waste. Whether that be scrap fabrics, or unused, unwanted and excess clothing. The average Australian throws away 30 kilograms of textiles per year, and only 15% of textiles are salvaged for recycling. I can’t even find hard numbers on how much unused fabrics are thrown away by manufacturers. It takes 15-20 years for a leather shoe to biodegrade. A cotton t-shirt takes 6-12 months in an environment that promotes biodegrading. NOT in a landfill.
The fashion industry currently is unethical and unsustainable. It goes against the average consumers morals. Ethical and sustainable fashion awareness incorporates many relevant issues. For example: feminism, human rights, environmental destruction and health risks. This is an issue that affects everyone, and one everyone can fight for.
But for all of us feeling guilty, even just reading this means we have a heart to learn. That we are all one step closer to a more sustainable and ethical future.