As London Fashion Week begins, we need to question the fashion industry and their role in the climate crisis and the degradation of the environment.
Fashion industry is responsible for consuming an estimated billion tonnes of carbon each year, using large quantities of virgin materials, and promoting rampant consumerism.
Fashion is responsible to the third-largest manufacturing industry in the world. Globally, as high as 10% Emissions, which occur throughout clothing supply chains. A single polyester T-shirt Around 5.5kg of CO2 is produced by this plantA pure cotton shirt made in China can produce almost 9kg of CO2.
There has been an increase in international expansion of fast fashion stores to meet the demand for cheap clothing. This has replaced the old make do and mend approach with a wear-it-then-chuck it approach.
Fashion has been made disposable by corporations. An estimated 200,000,000 tonnes of clothes in the UK end in landfill each year.
It is not just the amount of clothes we wear that is the problem. It’s also the materials used and the manufacturing processes.
Polyester and other plastics used in clothing don’t biodegrade so clothes can last between 20 to 200 years in the environment. They are also made from petroleum, which is the largest pollutant in the world.
According to a Plymouth University study, around 700,000 microfibers can be released from synthetic clothes washes. These microfibers can find their way into the oceans and ecosystems. Microplastic pollution is present on all levels, from the highest mountain to deepest ocean.
Biodegradable coton also has its issues. According to the 2022 United States Department of Agriculture report, 35 million hectares of global cotton are under cultivation. Report. This is largely due to a heavy dependency on pesticides which can lead to groundwater and surface pollution. It is also very water-intensive, decreasing rivers and depleting groundwater. The 85 percent depletion in the Aral Sea due to irrigation of cotton has the most devastating impact on wildlife habitats, fish populations, and livelihoods.
Denim is water-intensive. One pair of jeans consumes 3781 litres of water. The environment is at risk from the release of carcinogenic dyes in jeans, which can pose a threat to wildlife and pose a danger to workers’ health and safety. Sandblasting is a popular method to create distressed jeans. This creates fine particles which can get into workers’ lungs.
It is important to recognize that fast fashion is not cheap. Someone or something is paying for it. Fast fashion is often produced in countries that have limited or nonexistent worker rights. This has been known for decades. Some companies move manufacturing from one place to another in search of cheaper labour costs.
Garment workers’ wages are often very low. Way below the living wageTheir country does not have enough workers to meet basic needs like rent, food, and healthcare. They can work overtime until 3am to meet deadlines for fashion brands. On textile production sites, there are often accidents, fires and injuries.
According to the United Nations, textiles and garment production is a major activity for many of the 170,000,000 children involved in child labour. Unicef. Fashion is especially affected by this because the supply chain often requires low-skilled labor. Furthermore, some tasks are better suited to children than to adults.
Businesses must be held accountable for their actions and clean up their mess. A 2019 Environmental Audit Committee Report concludedVoluntary corporate social responsibility initiatives have not had an impact on improving pay and working conditions, or reducing waste.
It is time for governments to legislate and establish the standards that businesses must follow throughout their entire supply chain. The Committee recommended tax reforms to reward fashion companies who design products that have lower environmental impacts and penalize those that don’t. To reduce the negative effects of the clothing industry, the Committee called for the switch from conventional cotton to organic cotton, and from virgin polyester into recycled PET.
We also have a crucial role as consumers. Clothes shopping is not about dressing up to impress or sacrificing your love for clothes. It does require us to be open to the possibility of speaking out against the toxic fashion industry. We must also commit to buying more sustainable clothing and to repairing, redesigned and reused clothing.
Amelia Womack is the deputy leader of The Green Party of England & Wales