When compiling a list of industries that are killing the planet, fashion is often left out and forgotten. However, fashion is an unexpectantly toxic industry. The combination of pollutants and various types of waste created by the production of clothing is extremely harmful to the planet.
Almost every step involved in the process of clothing production creates waste. Creating the fabric itself releases millions of pollutants into the air and the water. The creation of synthetic fabrics requires alcohol and acid-based products to be washed into water, which often leaks into local lakes and streams, harming the plant and wildlife. Not only that, but synthetic fabrics do not biodegrade like natural fabrics, creating another waste source. However, natural fabrics create just as much, if not more, water pollutants than synthetic materials. Cotton, flax, and wool go through a bleaching process, to remove any colour inconsistencies, before going through an intense dying process, that permanently releases dyes into water. Even moving clothing goods creates pollution; transporting products by plane, boat, or trucks can uses thousands of gallons of gasoline, further ruining the air.
What is the fashion industry doing to fix this problem?
Many fast fashion clothing stores are now coming out with programs to recycle clothing. Several companies, large and small, accept gently used clothing, which gets broken down, washed, and resewn into something new.
With all of these toxic steps involved in fashion, how can the damage be undone (or at least, reduced)?
It’s important to know when to wash your clothes. Over washing unnecessarily uses up water, and releases more clothing dye into the environment. Denim producers recommend washing jeans only once every 14 to 21 wears, and jackets only need washing once every 10 to 20. Buying used clothing is an easy way to prevent more waste. Purchasing used jeans, shirts, and jackets from a second-hand store can not only reduce waste, but feels like a treasure hunt. Donating clothes to a local shelter is also a way to make sure no clothing ends up in landfills.
We only have one Earth, and it is important to preserve it.