First of all, what do we mean by sustainable fashion? Of course we are familiar with these two words, but I would like to give precise definitions. The latter, “Sustainability” has many definitions indeed, with the most common ones being an activity that can be continued indefinitely without causing harm; and meeting a current generation’s needs without compromising those of future generations. The former, “Fashion”, well there is a lot to say about it, but it is simply a manner of doing something, and popularly the latest style of clothing and behavior. Over the past decade, the style of clothing has started to be rapidly changed and fashion trends have become more industrialized leading to ...view middle of the document...
* Globally fragmented supply chain: with a global reach, the fashion industry supply chain is highly fragmented and complex, as a result it is difficult to know the labor used to manufacture the clothes and its transport from factory to retail outlet.
* The picture is from a garment factory in Bangladesh.
Major environmental impacts
The major environmental issues associated with the sector are:
* Energy use in laundry, production of primary materials especially man-made fibres and in yarn manufacturing of natural fibres.
* Use of toxic chemicals which may harm human health and the environment –in particular in conventional cotton production.
* Release of chemicals in waste water –especially in wet pre-treatment, dyeing, finishing and laundry –which may harm water based life.
* Solid waste arising from yarn manufacturing of natural fibres, and disposal of products at the end of their life.
Both man-made fibres and natural fibres have environmental impacts. We can give a couple of examples;
* Polyester, the most widely used manufactured fiber, is made from petroleum. With the rise in production in the fashion industry, demand for man-made fibers, especially polyester, has nearly doubled in the last 15 years. The manufacture of polyester and other synthetic fabrics is an energy-intensive process requiring large amounts of crude oil and releasing emissions including volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride, all of which can cause or aggravate respiratory disease. Volatile monomers, solvents, and other by-products of polyester production are emitted in the wastewater from polyester manufacturing plants. The EPA, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, considers many textile manufacturing facilities to be hazardous waste generators.
* Issues of environmental health and safety do not apply only to the production of man-made fabrics. Cotton, one of the most popular and versatile fibers used in clothing manufacture, also has a significant environmental footprint. It consumes large amounts of water, it requires more labor force due to lack of financial capacity of farmers, and it pollutes water and the environment because of mixing used field water full with chemicals and fertilizers with river or drinkable underground water. This crop accounts for a quarter of all the pesticides used in the United States, the largest exporter of cotton in the world, according to the USDA. The U.S. cotton crop benefits from subsidies that keep prices low and production high. The high production of cotton at subsidized low prices is one of the first spokes in the wheel that drives the globalization of fashion.
* As we can see from these two examples, Water consumption –especially the extensive use of water in cotton crop cultivation – can also be a major environmental issue as seen dramatically in the Aral Sea region. The shrinking of the Aral sea has been called “one of the...