Today, seven billion people inhabit the earth. Regardless of their economic statuses or geographical locations, they all have something in common: they all need to be clothed (except for the occasional nudist). The clothing industry is second to the food in consumer demand, and the industry of “fast fashion” is rapidly expanding. The clothing industry is constantly changing, and to meet the cheap demands of the consumers, it uses and emits harmful toxins in the process of producing clothing that is then worn for a brief period, and the disposed of incorrectly which pollues the earth. With only 1% of the clothing market taking environmental precautions, the green movement does not seem to be catching on in the fashion world. As the global crisis of a dying planet escalates, action needs to be taken, and the fashion world should be among the many industries that are joining the green movement. Currently the clothing industry controls the market, but it should be the consumers who first make the change.
True, going green is easier said than done, as many of us have most likely experienced. But given the environmental state of the planet, a change in decision making regarding consumerism is essential. For this reason, it is important to question the clothing you are buying. Most major clothing producers make textiles out of synthetic material. In the production of synthetic material, up to 8000 chemicals can be used. One example is polyester, which, like many other synthetics, uses crude oil in its production and emits acidic gases. Dyes used in essentially all clothing create toxic wastewater. Unbelievably, wool production used for clothing makes up for one quarter of pesticide pollution worldwide. Only 1.1% of wool production is organic, and it is sadly the majority of the 1% of the entire textile market that is environmentally friendly. Furthermore, given the vast demand for textiles, the market uses cheap and unethical methods. Not only do sweatshops worldwide harm destitute populations, but they transport their exports over long distances, and thus emit massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.
Why such a constant and high demand for this cheap clothing, though? The industry has created a world of “fast fashion”, where trends last as long as Kim Kardashian’s marriage. Every season new looks are designed and put on the runway, and then become the must-have street clothing for everyone. The only way to keep up with the trends is to shop at stores that bring in mass exports of cheap clothing. H&M, to illustrate, is a culprit for all of the above, and moreover uses child labor in its production. The planet cannot sustain our lifestyle much longer, and with the market of organic clothing growing extremely slowly—in 2009 organic cotton production had risen from 0.9% to 1.1%—action needs to be taken immediately, because keeping up with trends should be the least of our worries. It is difficult to juggle the pressures and responsibilities that come along with being a teenager, let alone prioritize them. And although our generation has not been the cause of the pollution, we definitely need to be the ones to end it.
Labels on clothing are the guidelines to a search for green fashion. Materials that were once obscure, such as sea leather, sawashi, milk protein, piña, and bamboo are all becoming known for being environmentally friendly, along with the more familiar organic cotton. Although these may be more expensive, they are quality products that last longer and spend more time in your closet rather than in a landfill. Fast fashion is bought cheap and then disposed of without regret, leading to higher consumption of more of such clothing and higher production. So if spending more money just isn’t a possibility, recycled clothing is an alternative, and it is not such a social taboo to wear anymore because of the eco trend all around us. I recently purchased a bag made out of an old sweater. So, however you choose to make a difference in the world, think more than just appearance and convenience.
In this dying age of consumerism, we can only make the best of our time, and the marks we leave on the world should not be ones of garbage and pollution. Make a fashion statement of your own by going green –not literally, because we all know green doesn’t suit anybody –and start the spread of the environmentally friendly movement of the fashion industry. Fashion is more than just material appeal.