Protect Our Planet
In our ever-evolving society, clothing is an essential good. Our clothing is also a profound channel of our daily self-expression. What we wear is a reflection of who we are, while serving as a source of confidence and fulfillment.
However, the accelerated mass production of clothing has positioned the fashion industry as the second leading contributor to climate change. Being conscious of the choices we make when purchasing clothing can help minimize our impact on mother nature. Below are 3 keys to be mindful of when assessing our clothing.
1. Is the fabric natural, synthetic, or semi-synthetic?
Natural fabrics are derived from naturally occurring fibers, like cotton. While biodegradable, cotton demands a specific climate, water, land & labor.
Synthetic, or man-made fabrics like polyester, acrylic, & nylon are often reserved for specific applications such as activewear & swimwear. First introduced in the 1930s, they are not biodegradable & their production requires extensive chemical processes. Synthetic fabrics are responsible for the highest amount of CO2 emissions.
Semi-synthetic, or man-made fabrics like rayon (modal/bamboo), were introduced in 1905. While biodegradable, semi-synthetic fabrics are prone to pilling & lack color retention. Sourced from trees, their fibers typically mandate the destruction of natural ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, extensive chemical treatment, & occupational exposure to carbon disulfide.
2. Under what conditions was the fabric produced?
Within the industry, manufacturing ethics & regulations differ. Production of fabrics is most important when considering natural & semi-synthetic fabrics.
Natural fabrics require the least chemical treatment, but are sometimes treated irresponsibly to create short-lived benefits such as anti-wrinkle & anti-microbial. When this is avoided & fibers are farmed responsibly by improving soil management, limiting water waste, & spot spraying pesticides—natural fabrics are the most environmentally-friendly.
While a few semi-synthetic fabric producers may employ a sustainable production model, their production is limited & cannot scale to support the global population without clearing forests. The overwhelming majority of semi-synthetic fabric in the global market is a direct result of detrimental deforestation practices.
3. What is the true cost of the product to the customer?
Clothing designed to be disposable is produced at greater scale in unsustainable fashion, typically using semi-synthetic/synthetic fabric blends.
If an item of clothing does not maintain its feel, color, & general quality after initial washes—it is often an indicator that it was produced with a lack of concern for the environment. When considering a purchase, it is important to consider the entire life cycle of an item of clothing, including how often it will be worn & washed.
From a functional standpoint, the more often an item of clothing will be worn & washed, the more it justifies a higher price tag. A high-quality clothing item is designed to last as many wash cycles as possible while retaining or even improving its quality. In the case of underwear, fabric quality is significant as these clothing items are typically washed more often than others.