Sustainable fashion

Can fashion be 100% sustainable?

Fashion industry accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions caused due to human activity.

Fashion industry produces 20% of the global wastewater.

85% of all textiles go to dump each year.

These are just a few of the many staggering facts about the fashion industry and its impact on the environment. And with predictions like the industry’s carbon footprint increasing to 2,791 million tons by 2030 and such massive environmental cost to fashion,  it is natural to wonder ‘Can fashion be 100% sustainable?’

Well! The truth is that the clothing industry has very complex supply chains that makes it difficult to account for all the emissions at every step production, transportation and disposal. To add to the concern, the industry is governed by trends and change in seasons that leads to demand for new clothes every now and then. Having said that, the industry has immense potential to be environmentally responsible. 

In fact, over the last couple of years, many fashion brands and consumers have actively joined the sustainable fashion movement. Let us understand in depth what these two important stakeholders can do to make fashion sustainable.

How can fashion brands and garment manufacturers be more sustainable?
Here are some possible steps that brands can take:

1. Innovative technology and production process
One of the first things that garment manufacturers should do is to utilise innovative technology to reduce wastage and efficient management of resources. Manufacturers can also implement a robust production process that further helps the cause.
    2. Use of eco-friendly raw materials
    The manufacturing process of apparels can be made eco-friendly with use of raw materials that do not harm the environment. For example: at SuRC, we use TENCEL™ fiber and Huntsman dye to produce different ranges of clothes. Both these companies are world renowned for being sustainable and for making continuous efforts to reduce waste, carbon emissions and energy consumption.

    “For fashion brands, it is tough to be 100% sustainable but one can always strive to be the best version of themselves. This can begin by working at the grassroots level which involves the garment industry. Garment industry can follow 4-5 thumb rules to be more sustainable including ensuring raw material does not impact the environment, effective usage of designs that lead to less amount of wastage, figuring out ways to repurpose discarded fabrics and materials & treat the people making the garments the right way ”- Arpit Srivastava, Regional Marketing & Branding Manager (South Asia, Middle East & Thailand) at Lenzing Group.

      3. On demand manufacturing
      Currently the industry runs on producing more than the required amount of clothing which leads to waste of resources. Manufacturers and brands take initiatives to produce ‘made to order’ apparels.

        4. Thoughtful packaging
        Normally a lot of plastic is used during packaging of products. Brands can make conscious efforts to incorporate packaging materials made with recycled plastic or pro environment materials like paper and beeswax wraps.

        Eco-friendly packaging

        5. Work towards carbon-neutral shipping
        Carbon-neutral shipping basically calculates the emissions i.e. the climate impact of shipment which is then accompanied by helping offset projects that help reduce carbon emissions. The process balances the damaging effect of shipping. Brands can take initiatives to work towards carbon neutral shipping.

        How can consumers help the fashion industry to be more sustainable?

        When it comes to making fashion more sustainable, consumers play a very pivotal role. They have the power to bring a massive change in the way the industry is functioning. Let us tell you how.

        a) Avoid over consumption
        A huge part of the problem pertaining to the fashion industry has been over consumption by customers. This habit provokes production of clothes and thus begins the vicious cycle of mass production and consumption which ultimately negatively impacts the planet. Customers can do their part by only shopping when they need and by using their apparel for its entire lifetime.

        Cons of fast fashion

        b) Ignore the ever changing trends
        Yes! It is quite easy to fall prey to the new trends of fashion. Trends are driven by the intention to promote more sales. But what one must realise is that all this comes with a cost. Not only is there a huge usage of resources but also excessive wastage caused due to disposal of clothes when a new trend comes in.

        c) Promote & shop from sustainable fashion brands
        Another way to make fashion sustainable is by opting to shop from brands that truly advocate sustainability and use materials and processes that are good for you and the Earth.

        d) Raise your voice
        Lastly, customers can raise their voices against brands and garment manufacturers that either follow non-sustainable practises or dupe them with greenwashing.

        Thus it can be concluded that even though it is tough for fashion to be 100% sustainable, the garment manufacturers and brands along with consumers can strive to be environmental champions and reduce the harmful effects of the industry on the planet.