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Just take a look around and it is easy to see that trash hurts and takes over the Earth. Implementing sustainable strategies helps to solve this problem immensely. One of the factors that contribute to the large amount of waste on Earth is the choice that individuals make not to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Other times, it is not that people do not want to recycle, they cannot. Some materials cannot be broken down to be reused again. In this paper, I will be discussing how buyers and manufacturers can both make changes in their habits to minimize and possibly eliminate the waste that occurs because of clothing and textile materials. To maintain a sustainable Earth, manufacturers must correct their production, distribution, and disposal practices to make them more innovative.
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“84 percent of unwanted clothes in the United States in 2012 went into either a landfill or an incinerator.” That is a huge proportion. Just think about all the clothes that people rid closets of in a lifetime as times change and fashion changes. From season to season, it is not hard to see this. When a fashion passes, what happens to all the mass-produced clothes? They end up in landfills with the rest of our trash. Newsweek calls the destruction of old clothing in landfills ‘Fast Fashion’.
One of the biggest problems with sustainability and fashion which is the fact that “only 0.1 percent of all clothing collected by charities and take-back programs is recycled into new textile fiber”. Due to the fact that it is hard for textiles to be broken up and remanufactured into new materials, fibers, or clothing, most of the process of making bonds between fibers is deteriorating. Jason Kibbey, the CEO of Sustainable Apparel Coalition claims, “Natural fibers go through a lot of unnatural processes on their way to becoming clothing”. This statement is true. The fibers are bleached, dyed, printed on, and scoured in chemical baths. The natural fibers are made from plant-based cellulose, but even though they may act like food waste, at the end of the day you cannot compost old clothes even though they are made from natural materials because of all the chemical processes that the clothes go through. This is bad news to hear.
As I stated before, the majority of unwanted clothes either go to the landfill or incinerator. The function of an incinerator is to burn trash, including clothes, to get rid of the waste in order to make room for new trash. This cycle occurs repeatedly. These machines mask the issue with yet another issue because burning the clothes releases toxins into the air; it’s the same toxins that would come from the unnatural processes that the fibers go through to become clothes in the first place. This contributes more to the issue. All in all, the solution to the issue lies in the future generations’ ability to buy more sustainably and the fashion industry to establish more sustainable methods of producing textiles, patterns, and clothing. It is basically a problem for the environment and for the fashion industry, as well as the amount of waste the materials take up and the improper disposal methods of them. It creates an even bigger problem because in order for the environment to be maintained and not destroyed any further, companies need to start becoming more sustainable, responsible, and eco-friendly in their practices by finding methods that will not contribute to the further destruction and prevent loss of revenue for the future of the economy. The goal is to achieve, maintain, and live in a sustainable Earth as well as prevent revenue loss and corruption of the economy.
Many people might not even be aware of the definition of the term sustainable. Sustainability stems from many different sources:
”In essence sustainable development is about five key principles: quality of life; fairness and equity; participation and partnership; care for our environment and respect for ecological constraints – recognizing there are ‘environmental limits’; and thought for the future and the precautionary principle”. (From Making London Work by Forum for the Future’s Sustainable Wealth London project)
”We cannot just add sustainable development to our current list of things to do but must learn to integrate the concepts into everything that we do.” (The Dorset Education for Sustainability Network) Including: “A sustainable future is one in which a healthy environment, economic prosperity and social justice are pursued simultaneously to ensure the well-being and quality of life of present and future generations. Education is crucial to attaining that future.” (Learning for a Sustainable Future – Teacher Centre)
Although a complex term with multiple definitions, sustainable simply means to meet the basic need of abundant living while defending and nurturing the health of bioregional cultures and the life-support systems of planet Earth. This simple definition is defined by Grimm, K. (2009, in prep.) in What Is Sustainability?
Companies should start becoming more sustainable for the future of the Earth and fashion. With the new generation known as ‘millennials’ having such an impact on the world as it is today, rises are beginning to form for the call for an eco-friendly world. They realize just how much jeopardy the Earth and its environment is in, as reported by many sources. “Sixty six percent of global millennials are willing to spend more on brands that are sustainable,” according to the State of Fashion 2018 report by BoF & McKinsey. In recent studies, it was shown that the new generation of fashion wearers are willing to boycott many brands and companies if they do not start to practice more sustainable ways for the fashion industry. This creates further strife for the economy and the fashion industry as well. As long as consumers continue with the harmful disposal practices of textiles and clothing, it will continue to deteriorate and add to environmental problems for the world as a whole. Why don’t we prevent future problems and consequences by becoming more sustainable? It adds to society’s standard of living, making it more wholesome, abundant, and preserving of what is left of the planet we all inhabit.
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Considering the issue of creating ways to make fashion sustainable in order to maintain abundant living, there are many innovative ideas the public and branded companies have developed in an effort to create workable solutions. According to Fashion Forward of Fast Company, there have been some new ideas developed in order to lower the world’s fashion footprint. Five methods have been sought out and they include: polyester-eating microbes, recycling food waste to great yarn, innovating algae-based fabrics, turning cotton into new clothing, and lastly, creating a database to track wasted fabrics on factory floors.
Going into detail, the first solution is polyester-eating microbes is. Most shirts are made from a raw material that is hard to break down; a new type of microbe is able to eat an old shirt that can be recycled back into the raw material to be sold on the market again. There is also the idea of creating yarn that can be used as material and textiles for clothing. This yarn is made from the byproduct of food waste. This ‘food-waste yarn” is in the works with tests being conducted now. Due to the amount of time and water used to grow natural cotton for clothing, the idea of using fast growing algae has created an open source process that could possibly eliminate the need for cotton. Another one of the solutions consists of an eco-friendly and useful solvent used to dissolve old cotton clothing that can, then, be spun into new fibers. This process, in turn, will get rid of more waste and the issue of having to grow cotton. Lastly, there is a database solution that will simply track the left-over material from clothing so that companies and the designers can make use of it instead of letting it go to waste. With even just these few solutions in mind, there is no doubt that there are plenty ways to establishing more sustainable fashions.
Today, many companies are taking steps to make the future of sustainable fashions a reality. For example, since the 1970s, the fashion brands have been taking initiative to develop parts of their clothing with eco-friendly materials and contributing to sustainable fashion. A brand owned by famous renowned musician Mono called EDUN is one of the top leading companies in sustainable fashion. As quoted from the fashion company’s mission statement, “The sourcing of each collection is a mix of innovative eco solutions (organic, recycled, and upcycled fabric) and artisanal custom-made fabric developments and embellishments made in Africa.” Companies are also changing most of the processes they use in mass production and choosing to attempt to recycle the clothing with the solutions mentioned before. There are also nonprofit organizations on the rise and one of them is Earth Pledge. The organization advocates for sustainability and has gained influence around the world, allowing brands to realize how serious the issue and the movement of eco-fashion is. In comparison to Fast Fashion, eco-friendly brands have developed Slow Fashion, the alternative that was been coined since 2007. The Slow Fashion movement is based on buying, designing, and creating garments for quality and longevity.
We, as people and society, can also join the movement of becoming sustainable with our fashion choices. Efforts in becoming sustainable in our practices include donating old clothing to vintage shops that will resell. Vintage clothing is a part of the cycle of Slow Fashion and has become very popular among millennials. Companies also urge shopping from smaller producers instead of big, mass producers. Smaller producers will not disrupt the economy and push the movement forward. People can even begin to innovate themselves and recycle old clothing into new self-created pieces. Nowadays millennials are beginning to create their own clothing and fashion accessories out of old items. It’s an amazing start to the ultimate goal of achieving, maintaining, and living on a sustainable Earth as well as prevent business loss and corruption of the economy.
Although it is quick to destroy and slow to rebuild, there are high hopes for maintaining the planet we live on as well as maintaining abundant living. There are many factors that pollute the Earth. With fashion waste being the second cause worldwide, creating sustainable fashion will be a big push. It has already begun to shift and take effect on many people including the newer generation. With more ideas coming forward and people taking a stand in society to do their part, the world can become more sustainable while being fashion forward as well.
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