You may have read the headlines. You may have heard David Attenborough warn us about the environment and its fast decline. But you may not know just how much the fashion industry contributes to global warming and the ongoing destruction of our planet.
- The fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water annually. This amount of water is enough to meet the needs of five million people.
- Around 20% of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment.
- The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. It’s reported that the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will reach more than 50% in the next ten years at this current pace.
- If the fashion industry continues as it does now, global consumption of clothing apparel will rise from 62 million metric tons (reported in 2019) to 102 million tons in 10 years.
- Half a million tons of plastic microfibers are dumped into the ocean every year – equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles. This is dangerous as microfibers can’t be extracted from the water, and they can spread throughout the food chain onto our plates, killing the animals around us.
The fashion industry poses a series of threats to the environment – and the sportswear industry is no exception.
Unfortunately, synthetic materials are used within activewear as they’re breathable, stretchy, and tend to keep you cool during exercise. Synthetic materials are often produced using chemical synthesis, which creates microfibers as mentioned above.
The devastating statistics above clearly show the significant impact the fashion industry is having on our planet. It’s therefore vital that we move towards a more sustainable way of living, as we need to reduce carbon emissions and eradicate the plastic waste that’s killing our environment.
What can we do?
For things to change, the entire industry needs to be restructured – but this is easier said than done.
The fashion industry is key for economic development. It’s valued at around US$2.4 billion globally (£1.7 billion) and directly employs roughly 75 million people worldwide. To put this into perspective, it’s the world’s third-largest manufacturing sector after the automobile and technology industries, so ‘restructuring the whole industry’ will take time.
However, as consumers, we can do our bit by turning away from old brands that aren’t sustainable. It’s time to say hello to new brands that aim to be sustainable and eco-friendly, such as those listed below.
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Patagonia has paved the way in the ethical fashion world since 1973 and sells outdoor adventure wear.
The company vows to consistently reduce its environmental impact and rejects the idea of fast fashion by creating high-quality and long-lasting products.
Patagonia even offers a repair and reuse programme to fix up its products, should they become damaged or worn over time. In 2011, it launched a highly regarded campaign called ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’ to tackle over-consumption in the industry.
Other than the fantastic company incentives, all of its cotton is certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). In addition, a large proportion of its materials are made from recycled fabrics, such as nylon, wool, and polyester.
After being called out in 2010 by global animal welfare organisation Four Paws for its mistreatment of birds for down, the label responded quickly and now works side by side with the organisation to encourage humane practices industry-wide.
Although many apparel brands have recently begun sustainable initiatives, none live and breathe that sentiment like Patagonia.
TALA is a popular activewear brand created by social media influencer Grace Beverly in 2019.
The brand uses 92% recycled materials on all products and aims to use 100% recycled or upcycled materials in its near future. It also stocks inclusive sizes ranging from 4 to 20, meaning its clothing is accessible for all shapes.
Its packaging deserves a nod, too – it’s all recyclable with 100% ‘plantable’ tags. This means that if you plant, love and care for the tags, they’ll eventually grow into something green and leafy. TALA even sells a fibre filter bag to wash your items in, acknowledging the huge impact of microfibers within clothing on the environment.
In an interview in WellToDoGlobal.co.uk, Beverly revealed: “We … have sold more than 60,000 products and saved over 2 million litres of water compared with non-recycled options. .” Massive kudos to her.
3. Girlfriend Collective
Girlfriend Collective’s eco credentials are pretty much as good as you can get. Their products are made up of recycled polyester, 100% recycled packaging, eco-friendly dye and recycling water bottles.
What’s more, the brand’s t-shirts and tanks are 100% cupro, a delicate fibre made from waste the cotton industry leaves behind. Its yarn is made in a zero-waste, zero-emission facility in Japan, then constructed at its SA8000-certified factory in Hanoi.
The SA8000 certification is a social accountability standard developed by Social Accountability International (SAI) and was created to protect the integrity of workers’ conditions and wages. SA8000 overlaps with Fair Trade certification, but while Fair Trade is predominantly used for farming, SA8000 is a certification used in factory conditions.
The best part about Girlfriend Collective is its belief in transparency. Many companies greenwash their consumers without proof of their sustainability, but you can easily find certificates and statements online about this brand. As such, you know you’re getting the real, eco-friendly deal.
Wolven comprises a group of artists and activists working on reducing the negative footprints created by the fashion industry.
The brand invests in programmes that offset the emissions it’s created. To address the issue of a carbon footprint, it’s partnered with Climate Neutral. Through this partnership, Wolven has measured its greenhouse gas emissions footprint, purchased carbon credits to offset that footprint, and implemented plans to reduce emissions moving forward.
Wolven also operates using OEKO-Tex certified recycled P.E.T (polyester). Recycled P.E.T is a versatile fabric created by breaking down discarded plastics and recycling them into textiles and apparel. The fabric then becomes – according to Wolven – breathable, soft, and durable.
Of the 14 billion lbs of waste that’s thrown into the ocean every year, 80% of that is plastic. Wolven is therefore constantly looking for ways to reuse plastics, giving plastic bottles a new life while reducing carbon emissions.
Picture is a brand that uses 92% organic cotton and 69% recycled polyester to make its technical apparel. This mostly comes from recycled bottles.
In fact, the brand has used recycled polyester made from plastic bottles since its origins in 2008. However, it’s always looking for new solutions to wipe out its dependence directly or indirectly on fossil fuels.
The brand has also expanded to bio-sourcing materials, which means creating a fabric partly made with plant material such as sugar cane or castor beans. These materials can be transformed to replace conventional non-sustainable fabrics.
6. Outdoor Voices
Outdoor Voices’ interchangeable layers are perfect for any season or activity. From dog jogs to dodgeball, this athletic wear collection spans gym life and even everyday life.
The brand sources sustainable textiles and responsibly sourced merino wool, and recycled polyester made from water bottles to create its clothing and wider apparel. It claims to have prioritised solutions in finding and using raw materials — specifically, fabrics and packaging — as they account for nearly 70% of its environmental impact.
7. Bruce Apparel
Bruce Apparel is a label that prides itself on making stylish activewear for men who love to look good while being active. Its recycled plastic shorts and t-shirts are appropriate for both the streets and the gym.
The shirts are made from a mix of recycled polyester and Tencel (a sustainable fabric regenerated from wood cellulose and produced by the Austrian company Lenzing AG), while the polyester is derived from recycled P.E.T. water bottles. This means it uses less energy than traditional polyester. On that note, a fun fact about Bruce Apparel’s shorts is that each pair of shorts contains eight recycled water bottles.
Bruce Apparel claims it was created to fill the sustainable void in the male active lifestyle market. Its products are designed for maximum performance conditions, originally tested on athletes in Perth, Australia.
The small company is against the fast fashion industry and believes in only buying clothes that you can wear for longer and keep forever.
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