Saturday, July 9, 2016

Toxic Fashion

Toxic Fashion

A contaminated and toxic water inland water source.

Image Source: Newsweek

A popular trend in modern Western society is the focus on sustainable and environmentally-friendly products and practices, ranging from the cars we drive, the food we eat, even the light-bulbs we use, but one area of our daily lives is often overlooked: our clothing.

When we do pay attention to the impacts of our clothing choices, we tend to focus on the labor practices within the clothing industry, ensuring that our clothes are not produced by slave-labor or in factories that are unsafe for workers, especially after the Rana Plaza disaster in April of 2013 [1]. While this is important, we cannot overlook the environmental impacts of the textile industry.

The textile industry weighs heavily on our planet's resources. The raw materials needed, the chemicals used to produce and dye the fabrics, the by-products of production, the oil used to ship the materials and finished goods around the world, and the waste created when we discard our clothes (11 million tons annually in the US [2]). EcoWatch estimates that "it takes about 70 million barrels of oil just to produce the virgin polyester used in fabrics each year" [3].

While the industry has been touted as an economic driver in many developing countries, the environmental impacts are dire. The production process is water-intensive, and dirty (often compared with agriculture and oil), with a pair of jeans requiring 1,850 gallons of water from start to finish, and your average T-shirt needing 715 gallons. Rivers that used to run clean and clear to farms that produced rice, banana, coconut, turmeric, and other crops, now run red and purple with the runoff of dyes and chemicals from the factories lining the riverbanks. Locals that rely on these rivers are now at risk of serious illness [4].

While this issue is gaining more attention, oversea textile producers are resisting change. By purchasing clothing that is responsibly produced you can have a positive impact. These purchases tell producers that we want and are willing to pay for clothing that is made with eco-friendly materials and processes. A few brands that are living up to their promises of going green include: Adidas, United Colors of Benetton, Burberry, C&A, Esprit, G-Star Raw, H&M, Inditex (incl. Zara), Levi Strauss & Co., Limited Brands, Mango, Marks & Spencer, Primark, Puma, Uniqlo, and Valentino

Others, like Georgio Armani, Bestseller, Only The Brave (incl. Diesel and Viktor & Rolf), Dolce & Gabbana, Gap Inc., Hermes, LVMH Group/Christian Dior Couture (incl. Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Dior), Metersbonwe, PvH (incl. Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger), Vancl, and Versace are refusing to take responsibility for the environmental impacts of their production and currently have no intent to change their practices [5].

1. Wikipedia - Rana Plaza
2. Huffington Post - Dirty Laundry
3. EcoWatch - Fast Fashion is the Second Dirtiest Industry in the World
4. Newsweek - The Environmental Crisis in Your Closet
5. EcoWatch - How Green is Your Favorite Clothing Brand?

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