ROOT CAUSE #1: WRONG MATERIAL CHOICES
A lot of the environmental impacts that fashion has today comes from the fact that we’re making our clothes with fabrics that are damaging to the environment. Today, 63% of the world’s textile production is synthetic fibres (mostly polyester), and 23% is cotton. The large majority of it non-organic cotton. The non-organic cotton and synthetic fibres are enormous drivers of the consumption of non-renewable resources.
In the case of synthetics, it’s as simple as the fact that they’re derived from fossil fuels, the raw material being petrol. In the case of non-organic cotton, it needs a disproportionate quantity of pesticides and water to grow. Together, synthetic fibres and cotton amount to roughly 86% of the world’s textile production. This production means that all remaining fabrics amount to less than 14%. This 14% of fabrics includes materials that have the potential to regenerate nature, such as linen and hemp.
To further the problem, in the last few years we’ve seen an exponential increase of blended fabrics, that is, fabrics made with a mix of 2 raw materials. Your garment will be made of blended fabrics when the care label says that your t-shirt is made of, for instance, 80% cotton and 20% polyester. The challenge? Blended fabrics are impossible to recycle into new materials, which means that those garments will end up sitting in landfill at some point.
Why is this happening? To reduce the price of producing clothes to the maximum so that we can continue the existing race to the bottom of clothing prices. The hidden cost of these material choices is not only environmental. We are putting our skin, our largest organ, in contact with fabrics that have negative health impacts.
The good news? Material composition is the one thing that brands are obliged by law to disclose, which means that we as individuals can look up the care labels and decide if those fabrics are something that we want to purchase and support. Our money, our vote.