Fashion Industry begins to shift towards an era of sustainable production

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Protesters display banners during a fashion show. Getty Images

The constant demand for trendy yet affordable garments has created a demand for synthetic fabrics such as polyester, which are produced using oil and petroleum. Once manufactured, these synthetic toxic fabrics will not biodegrade or break down, so your discarded clothes will only clog up landfills that will eventually pollute our water system and environment.

Most if us grew up spending our weekends at the local mall, stocking up on the latest styles from retailers such as Target, H&M, Gap and Forever 21. But more and more millennials and Gen Z have switched up their shopping methods for environmentally friendly choices such as thrift stores and avoiding synthetic fabrics that are made from petroleum.

The average North American will toss out more than 80 pounds of textiles each year, most of which are made from synthetic fabrics. Sadly, most fabric fibers are made from petroleum-based products because of the low cost and its’ overall versatility for making a wide variety of clothing options.

Almost all of our clothes have a small percentage of synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon, spandex, and acrylic just to name a few. Most of our beloved clothing choices wouldn’t be able to fit right without these fibers, such as our undergarments, shapewear, leggings, and even that cardigan sweater you are wearing right now.

More than 62% of Gen Z (born after the year 1995) are avoiding buying clothing that are made from synthetic fabrics or they even prefer shopping at used clothing stores for more sustainable options.

How is the fashion industry responding? Some big fashion industry brands, such as H&M and Nike, are beginning the process of changing the environmental footprint while manufacturing their products and reducing carbon emissions. They are also experimenting with using recycled products. Nordstrom recently announced that they are launching their first-ever resale store, as consumers prefer the option of second-hand clothing to new.

Even though the fashion industry is making positive strides towards sustainable fashion, they are still producing more than 50% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Research shows those rates are only going to keep on increasing in the next few years, due to the global demand for cheap clothing increases.

Most of these clothes aren’t designed to last a lifetime and end up in the garbage dump a few months after being purchased. Fashion is also to blame, with the need to be in style constantly, fashion brands are coming out with whole new collections every few weeks instead of every season or annually. Creating the need for disposable garments that are designed to worn no more than 10 times, then discarded.

A study conducted by the consulting firm Mckinsey, showed an alarming fact about the fashion industry. From 2000 to 2015, the fashion industry produced double the amount of clothing than the previous 15 years. Plus the average American shopper purchased 60% more clothes but only used each item for half as long as before.

These synthetic fibers break down a little every time they are washed into micro plastic particles that pollute our water system. That isn’t even going into detail about the chemicals and dyes used to manufacture them. The Environmental Protection Agency has called today’s textile manufacturing operations “hazardous waste facilities.”

Most of us steer away from purchasing disposable plates and cups, maybe it is time we start rethinking what we put on our bodies.

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