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How do our clothes impact
our planet?

Fashion has a significant impact on our planet, from raw materials, production, distribution, and disposal of products.

Creating our clothes and accessories is a resource intensive process which relies on creating fibres, materials, and fabrics, through to the chemicals, dyes, finishes, and treatments to reach the desired look and function of our clothes.

 

Explore more about the impacts of our clothes from:

 

  • Microplastics in synthetic clothing

  • How overconsumption of clothes contributes to textile dumping

  • Reducing environmental impact through a circular economy

  • How greenwashing misrepresents planet-conscious choices.

Image: Canva

Microplastics

Did you know that many of our clothes are made from synthetic (plastic) fibres? These synthetic materials include polyester, nylon, and acrylic, which are derived from oil that comes from the ground. Your synthetic clothing is actually made from oil!

 

When we wash these clothes, tiny microplastic particles are released into the water. These ultimately end up in our waterways, making their way into our oceans. These synthetic clothes do not biodegrade; however, they can deteriorate into infinitely small pieces of microplastic. These microplastics tend to end up in our food chain.
 

Image: Canva

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Textile Dumping

Where do our clothes go at their end of life? An estimated 85 per cent of all global textiles end up thrown away every year, which is the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles incinerated or in landfill every second.

 

This is particularly concerning with synthetic clothing as they do not biodegrade, which leads them to end up being resold in emergent nations, incinerated, or even sent to textile dumping grounds in developing countries.
 

Image: Canva

Circular Economy

In a circular economy, resources are used for as long as possible, rejecting the current linear ‘take-make-dispose’ model. A circular economy uses strategies such as recycling, reuse, and repair, to gain maximum value and full use of resources to minimise environmental impact.

 

This means that products are initially designed with this circular model in mind, also called circular design, which focuses on durability, recyclability, and reusability. A circular economy not only encompasses systemic and design considerations but also restoring and regenerating ecosystems by using renewable energy, regenerative agricultural practices that promote and restore natural resources.

 

A goal of constructing a circular economy is to recycle materials and reintroduce them into the production process to create new products, which reduces the need to extract raw materials and minimise resource depletion – this is also referred to as ‘closing the loop’.

Image: Canva

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Greenwashing

Greenwashing is deceptive or misleading practices by companies, brands, or organisations to make products, services or a business as a whole to appear more environmentally friendly or ‘sustainable’ than they really are.

These greenwashing tactics create a false impression of being environmentally responsible or considerate, without actively implementing change or improvement to products, services, or business practices. This can look like vague or unsubstantiated ‘green’ claims (including terms like ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘natural’) without providing evidence to support this claim.

 

Greenwashing can also include diverting attention from companies’ or brands larger environmental issues by focusing on small environmentally friendly aspects of products or services, as well as lack of proof, misleading labels, and inflated ‘green’ claims.

 

The issue of greenwashing is concerning because it can mislead consumers that want to make environmentally responsible choices as well as undermining legitimate efforts to address environmental challenges. It’s important for us to be analytical and informed, look for credible evidence, seek transparency and support brands that act with genuine commitment to sustainability.

 

The European Commission (EU Commission) is preparing to crack down on companies with new laws to prevent greenwashing.

Image: Canva

Where to next?

Learn more about the fashion industry with a free list of resources.

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