Fast Increasing Alarming Fashion Industry’s Environment Impacts
The fashion industry is second in terms of global pollution. The industry’s disastrous environmental effects include ocean and freshwater pollution, accumulation of textile waste, and greenhouse gas emissions. There is an urgent need to take steps to reduce these environmental impacts and make fashion more sustainable, all over the globe, including Hungary.
What can we do to stop it Fashion Industry’s Environment Impacts?
Select clothes that are made in countries with stricter environmental regulations (EU, Canada, US)
- Organic fibers are better than synthetic fibers.
- Fashion industry water consumption
Fashion is a significant water consumer. All of our clothes require a large amount of freshwater for dyeing and finishing. It can consume up to 200 tons of fresh water to dye a single ton of fabric.
Cotton depends on a lot of water to grow and heat, but it is often grown in dry and warm areas. To produce 1kg of cotton takes up to 20,000 liters. This puts enormous pressure on this scarce resource and has devastating ecological consequences, such as the desertification in the Aral Sea, where cotton production has wholly drained all the water (see photos above).
The cotton-growing water in India would cover 85 % of India’s daily water needs. 100 million Indians don’t have access to water. Stephen Leahy, The Guardian.
These numbers speak volumes about the extent of the damage the fashion industry is causing. The UN estimates that 20 percent of global water pollution is caused by the fashion industry. Apparel and footwear account for more than 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. By 2030, CO2 emissions from the sector are expected to rise by more than 60 percent.
The fashion industry is being contaminated by microfibers.
Each time we wash synthetic clothing (polyester or nylon), approximately 700.000 microfibers are released into the water. These microfibers make their way into our oceans. Scientists discovered that microfibers are ingested by tiny aquatic organisms. These microfibers are then consumed by small fish and later by larger fish. This introduces plastic into our food chain. More info on #WhatsInyMyWash. Micro waste
Recent research also shows that synthetic fibers can release plastic microfibers into the atmosphere. The study found that one person could remove nearly 300 million polyester microfibres annually from the environment by washing clothes and more than 900,000,000 by wearing the garments.
Fashion for the fast lane: Disposable clothes
The environmental impact of fast fashion has been further magnified by its dependence on mass production and low prices. These apparel companies produce a lot of clothing each year. This makes it easier for consumers to see these clothing items as disposable goods. People buy clothes more often than they need and then throw them away after only wearing them a few times.
The number of clothes per person in Europe has increased 40 percent over the past few years. Only 1% of these clothes are recycled and worn once. It took almost 8,000 liters to make jeans and 2,720 Liters to make the cotton T-shirt they loved but soon became tired of.
“The average clothing day’s water footprint, which includes underwear, shoes, T-shirts, and trousers, is approximately 20,000 liters.”
Fashion must be more sustainable.
Eszter Mengyan, a Hungarian stylist-journalist, is working to combat fast fashion. She raises awareness about the adverse effects of style, advocates for sustainability, and promotes second-hand clothing. While she blogs, gives talks and shares her tips, Eszter Mengyan is also the editor of Fenntarthatodivat. hu (“Sustainable Fashion”)
In his podcast episode with Eszter Megyan, Janos Ader, the Hungarian President, raised concerns about fashion and sustainability. They spoke out about the environmental harm that fashion is causing and called attention to the roles of consumers and governments in pushing for sustainability in the fashion industry. Mengyan & Ader highlighted this.
Fashion industry waste problem
Clothing has become disposable. We are producing more textile waste as a result. An average family in western countries throws away 30kg of clothing per year. Only 15% of clothing is recycled or donated. The rest is sent to landfills or incinerated.
Synthetic fibers such as polyester are non-biodegradable. They can take up to 200 years to decay. 72% of all our clothing is made from synthetic fibers.
Fashion industry chemicals
One of the significant components of our clothes is chemicals. They are used to produce fiber, dyeing, bleaching, and wet processing of all our garments. Heavy use of chemicals in cotton agriculture is leading to premature death and diseases among cotton farmers.
Some of these substances can also be harmful to the consumer (see the section on toxicity).
Mengyan, a sustainability advocate, says that individuals can help reduce pollution by using fewer detergents and washing their clothes less often. It is necessary to develop technologies that filter microplastics out of the water used in washing machines to reduce pollution.
Fashion industry emissions of greenhouse gases
Global carbon emissions are 10% attributed to the apparel industry. Due to the energy required for its production, manufacturing, and transportation, the global fashion industry generates many greenhouse gasses each year.
Synthetic fibers, such as nylon, acrylic, and polyester, are available. The majority of clothes we wear are made from synthetic fibers, which are made from fossil fuels. This makes production more energy-intensive than with natural fibers.
Our clothes are mainly made in India, Bangladesh, and China. These countries are primarily powered by coal. This is the most polluting type of energy in terms of carbon emission.
James Conca, FORBES, also stated that “cheap synthetic fibers emit gases such as N2O which is 300x more harmful than CO2”.
The fashion industry causes soil degradation.
Our ecosystem is dependent on soil. Healthy soil is essential for both food production and the absorption of CO2. Global soil degradation is one of the most pressing environmental problems our planet faces. It is a significant threat to global food security and contributes to global heating.
Fashion plays a vital role in soil degradation in many ways. These include overgrazing pastures with cashmere goats or sheep for their wool, soil degradation due to heavy use of chemicals to grow cotton, and deforestation from wood-based fibers such as rayon.
Our clothes may contain toxic substances.
Every step of textile production involves chemicals. These chemicals are used to make fibers, dye fabrics, and bleach them. Even clothes made from “100% natural” fabric clothes still contain lots of chemicals. Our skin is the largest organ in our bodies and absorbs everything we put on it. They can pose a severe threat to our health.
What are their effects?
- Recent research found that hazardous chemicals were present in 63% of 20 textile brands tested (including fashion giants).
- Certain chemicals found in pajamas can be detected in children’s urine five days after they have worn them for one night.