The first thought that comes to mind when many are asked to think about ways to be eco-friendly and the largest impacts on the environment, the answer is typically something to do with automobiles. Recycling and the production of waste might be a close second, but fashion doesn’t often pop into the mind so quickly.
It’s true that auto pollution and waste disposal are extreme hindrances on the environment in many parts of the world, contributing to a global problem; the fashion industry isn’t without some blame as well.
The Harsh Reality
For example, consider cotton – this kind of fabric is used in a vast majority of both cheap and luxury-quality clothing, depending on the type of cotton and how much or little is being used. It’s quite likely you’ve got something 100% cotton in your closet, if you aren’t wearing it right now. Consider this fact: cotton is a plant that requires massive amounts of water, and the pesticides the fashion industry uses to keep as much cotton viable as possible makes up almost 25% of all the insecticide used globally.
Other fabrics contribute to this problem as well. Viscose fabric, made from wood pulp, is helping to contribute to massive deforestation globally. Leather often requires harmful chemicals to tan the hide being used for clothing, thus contributing to pollution and other environmental hazards – and this doesn’t even cover this issue of animal rights and cruelty associated with leather, as well as fur.
Dyeing is another big fashion necessity, and it as well as other textile treatments are what produce up to 20% of the current net industrial pollution around the world. Pollution is a worldwide problem that leads to rapidly growing global warming. In 2013, environment experts reported the first 400 PPM milestone. This method for measuring carbon emissions shows the severity of global warming and the point of no return, and the fashion industry contributes to it.
Consider India for a moment. The pollution from the dying and textile treatments isn’t something that just wafts into the air – it’s a chemical melting pot that’s often dumped into public water systems, which is where many communities get their drinking water. In India, this has caused a massive problem, with clothing manufacturing contributing to a water pollution crisis that has destroyed the farms and livelihood of tens of thousands of families.
An even more direct danger of fabric dyeing and textile treatment is the damage it does to the workers itself. If directly handing this dye leaves skin stained and toxic, what will pouring it into lakes and soil do to the earth?
This isn’t specific to India, either. In any country it’s easy to find harmful examples of the fashion industry wreaking havoc on our planet – and is this what we want for our planet?
Time for Change
There’s good news, though: it doesn’t have to be this way. OORR garments are made from fabrics produced by a Chinese fabric manufacturer, though one certified by Bluesign. This global authority on textile production makes sure that certified manufacturers uphold environmental standards that are stringent. Other authorities like Oeko Tex strive for the same accountability textile production globally.
There are a lot of facets of this industry to consider when thinking about a business’ eco-footprint. For instance, clothing brands that consistently churn out new designs for fashion seasons help contribute to an obvious waste cycle – a person buys a shirt, then buys another a month later, throwing out their previous purchase. This cycle of consumption is no accident. The fashion industry sets out to produce clothing at an alarming rate with a push for consumers to stay on trend. This keeps the money coming in while the clothing is going out with the trash.
This means all that dye seeping into the earth and all of those pesticides are used on clothing that is only meant to last a few months. Does that seem worth it?
OORR is dead set on making environmentally conscious apparel and accessories, but we’re a very fine tip of an ever expanding iceberg. As consumers, the goal should not only to require fashion companies to be environmentally aware, but also to consume less in general. When consumers demand less of fashion companies, the environment is helped immensely.