Too Fast Too Furious – Part 2


21st Century – how did we get here in just 20 year?

Now let’s take a look at some of the available statistics* about Fashion Industry transformation in the last 20 years and some of the most important environmental impacts that this fast and furious growth entailed:

Fashion is one of the most influential sectors in the world’s economy and global culture:

  • Fashion industry is now worth $2.4 trillion and is comparable to the world’s seventh-largest economy per GDP
  • Global clothing and textile industry directly employs about 60 to 75 million people
  • Fashion industry grew at 5+% annual rate over the last decade and was more profitable than even high-growth sectors like technology and telecommunications
  • Garment manufacturing has become the world’s third-biggest industrial manufacturing, behind only automotive and electronics manufacturing
  • The world clothing production has roughly doubled from 2000 to 2015 – from about 50 billion units to 100 billion units each year
  • The number of garments purchased each year by the average consumer increased by 60 percent in 2015 compared to 2000
  • Today consumers keep clothing items about half as long as they did 15 years ago and treat the lowest-priced garments as nearly disposable, discarding them after just seven to eight wears

Fashion is now believed to be one the most polluting industries, here are the main areas of its environmental impact:

  • Fashion industry produces an estimated 8% -10% of all world’s CO2 emissions – comes from energy needed for production of raw materials like cotton, polyester or leather, as well as fabric and garment production, transportation and at home washing
  • Fashion is responsible for 20% of global wastewater pollution – comes from chemicals used in textile dyes and treatments, animal farming and leather tanning
  • Fashion is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply – comes mainly from large amount of water needed to grow cotton, as well as textile dyeing and finishing
  • Fashion adds 500 million tons of plastic microfibers (an equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles!) into the oceans each year – comes mainly from washing our clothes at home, specifically those made from synthetic fabrics
  • Fashion is a large contributor to deforestation – more than 150 million trees are logged each year to produce cellulosic fabrics like viscose. In order to increase animal farming lands which gives us leather and wool, trees also must be cleared. Often ancient and endangered forests like the Amazon are cut down. As a direct result of deforestation, fashion thus contributes to the loss of biodiversity
  • Fashion produces millions of tons of textile waste each year. It is believed that the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned every second.
  • Of all the textile and clothing made each year, 12% are lost during manufacturing in the form of production waste, about 75% are sent to landfill by consumers, 12% are put back in the system through donating or recycling, and only less than 1% are recycled into new clothes.
Vancouver "clothing waste" art installation by Value Village

I have not even touched on all the social issues which is a whole other dark side of fashion, I will cover it in future articles, but I think by now you get the picture. The bottom line is: Fashion industry must change… It can’t continue going at this crazy fast pace, it has to shift to a lower gear!  Instead, it could contribute positively to the environment and the communities that are part of its supply chain. And we the consumers, we have to change our behaviors too. We can simply start by buying less! We can buy better quality items so that we keep them for longer. We can repair our clothes, swap them with friends, buy more vintage or use rentals. We should also learn about the issues at stake: understand what materials our clothes or shoes are made of and what impact they have, who and in what conditions makes them?  

I truly hope to see this industry soon transform from “fast and furious” to “slow and beautiful”.

*Disclaimer: statistics cited above are taken mainly from 2015 industry reports, and are considered to be estimates

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