All of us are engaged with fashion in one way or another. More than just an attire, clothes are an expression of who we are.
But according to a 2018 UN report, the global fashion industry emits about 10% of the annual global emission, which is more carbon than all international flights and shipping combined every year. Fashion industry is making an impact on the environment through its energy and water consumption, chemical usage, textile waste and long-distance transportation to name a few.
The pandemic has, once again, brought the discussions on climate change and sustainability to the limelight. It is time to pause and take a look at our fashion choices and the footprint we are leaving behind. Fashion footprint refers to the environmental impact of the clothes we purchase.
I know, we can’t quit wearing clothes or looking good. But there are some decisions that we can consciously make to help bring about a difference.
No, you can’t shop your way out of this problem. Earlier reports suggest that a 100 billion pieces of clothes were sold in the year 2000 and 20 years later, that figure has nearly doubled.
Every new piece of clothing has its own environmental impact and complex supply chain. So instead of shopping new, try and make the most out of what you already have. Alter and mend them. It might mean spending a lot of time, but keeping them in rotation can help reduce your fashion footprint.
But if you must buy new clothing, try to find them second hand, as buying new should be the last option, not the first one.
Think twice before donating
Donating old clothes to charity seems like a good way to clear out your wardrobe, but data suggests that only 10-20% of the donated clothes are actually sold. Know that it is either shipped to retail markets in developing countries, which can negatively impact their local industries, or ends up in landfills.
Exchanging clothes with friends or through initiatives that help you swap clothes definitely seems to be a better option than causing damage to the environment. Remember, every small effort counts and most of them are probably doing exactly that.
Reduce your returns
The pandemic has increased online shopping like never before. Free and easy returns have transformed online shopping but while trying out and rejecting clothes at the comfort of your own home is convenient, the impact on the planet isn’t. The distance that these returns need to travel as well as their packaging can lead to a humongous amount of waste.
Shockingly, it is easier for companies to trash the returns than inspect the damage and repackage them.
Wash them less
Now here is a good news for those who are not big fans of washing clothes. Washing your clothes less often can benefit the environment and also makes them last longer.
Washing clothes made of acrylic fiber, nylon and polyester poses another danger. They shed about 1,900 individual microfibers into the water with every wash, which then makes its way into our oceans.These plastic microfibers are among the many micro-plastics that make up almost a fifth of the 8 million tonnes of plastic that ends up in the ocean every year. Installing a washing machine filter can reduce this problem to an extent but clothes made of natural fibers are always better.
Choose your brands right
One of the best things you can do is to stay informed. Some clothing brands promote an eco-conscious image without taking any meaningful actions to back it up. They randomly use words like natural, eco and even sustainability to persuade people that they are buying responsibly without changing their manufacturing or sourcing practices.
Recognizing greenwashing is important. “Greenwashing” is when fashion retailers say that their products are environmentally friendly, even when they are not.
Start asking questions and hold them accountable. Remember, the labels on the clothes don’t always tell the full story.
There is no quick fix for the fashion industry. But it can only begin to become socially and environmentally responsible if people who are associated with it decide to make a difference.
Since you are now aware of the consequences of your fashion choices and clothes are something to express who you are, choose wisely. Because, why not?