7 Scary Facts About the Fashion Industry
What are you wearing right now? Not trying to be cheeky here but most likely you're not just wearing your birthday suit. You're wearing at least one piece of clothing, maybe it's just your undies as you lounge reading this article but regardless of what you're wearing, just the act of wearing an article of clothes makes you a partcipicant in the $2.5 trillion-dollar fashion industry. Despite what you think about fashion or even if you give it no thought at all, you still wear clothing regularly. How familiar though are you with the journey your clothes make from raw material to a hanger in your cramped closet, to its destruction (or lack of).
Retailers such as Zara and H&M have made it incredibly easy to buy clothes cheaply and loads of it. In fact, clothes have become so affordable these days that the average shopper buys 60% more clothing now than in 2000, but keeps pieces half as long (and feels like they have nothing to wear with a closet stuffed with clothing). Zara offers 24 new clothing collections annually; H&M offers 12 to 16 and refreshes them on a weekly basis (a great tactic to keep you returning for more). That's a lot of collections but not long ago, there were just two - Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. Fast, cheap, and disposable is the name of the game. But hold on for a second, let’s ask ourselves, how it is that clothes are so cheap? Who makes our clothes and from what? What happens to our clothes ones we get rid of them? Once you ask these questions, you’ll realize just how wasteful we’ve become and what devastating impacts our shopping habits are having on our beautiful planet. It’s seriously time we all take more notice and become mindful when shopping.
Below are seven frightening facts about the fashion (or more accurately, "wasteful, throwaway" fashion) industry.
1. One truck full of textiles is landfilled or burnt EVERY SECOND
Can we contemplate this fact? It is estimated that every single second of every minute, a truck full of textiles either goes to a landfill or is burned, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. That's 60 garbage trucks in just a minute, 1440 in an hour, 43,800 in a month, you get the point. The size of over half a million trucks full of clothing goes to landfills or are burned annually! That is a staggering figure and if you really give it some thought, it's mind boggling that we are producing so much waste.
6 of 10 garments that are produced end up going to the landfill or are burned within the first year of production.
You may be thinking you're off the hook for creating all this waste since you donate your clothes to charity but the grim truth is that only 10% of clothes donate to thrift stores or charities get sold, the rest goes to landfill to make up the grueling headline statistic.
2. The fashion industry is the 2nd highest user of water worldwide, producing 20% of global water waste
Can you believe it? The industry most of us approach so passively is responsible for one fifth of global water waste. The amount of water used for clothing production each year is the equivalent to 32 million Olympic swimming pools. While we're on mind-blowing facts, consider this: it takes 2,900 gallons of water to produce a single pair of jeans - that's the amount of water one individual drinks in about 50 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
3. Farmers near garment factories can predict the season's 'it' color by the color of nearby rivers
There is a joke in China that you can tell the 'it' color of the season by looking at the color of the rivers. Farmers should not be the ones to forecast fashion color trends but these days they get insider info from their rivers. It is is estimated that in China, 70 percent of the rivers and lakes are contaminated by the 2.5 billion gallons of wastewater produced by the textile industry. Rivers in third world countries that produce textiles contain a toxic brew of chemical waste and are sadly devoit of life. The local people in those countries oftentimes rely on these rivers for drinking and bathing water and as a result, suffer from gastric and skin issues and have high incidents of cancer. Our love for fast fashion is killing the planet.
4. 10% of the World's Carbon Emissions Are Emitted by the Apparel Industry
Each piece of apparel has an astronomically high carbon footprint. Think of the supply chain from seed to disposal and you get contributors such as farming, harvesting, and shipping fiber; the toxic dyes used in manufacturing and the waste created by throwing out clothes.
5. Demand for fast fashion keeps increasing around the globe
The number of middle class people around the world is expected to hit 5.4 billion by 2030 (about double the current figure), which is expected lead to a threefold increase in demand for clothes and other goods consumed (or shall I say over-consumed) traditionally by the middle class.
6. The price of clothing has decreased by 6% since the 90's despite inflation of 87% since then
Since the 90's, the price of consumer goods have increased by 60%, meanwhile, the price of clothing has DECREASED by 6%. Cheap clothing is not cheap to the environment and public health. It's time to think beyond the tag price, which is devised to make you buy buy buy and throw out after six wears, on average.
7. Cotton farming is toxic
Think cotton and you most likely picture something like the image above. It's such a wholesome image but in reality, the crop is one of the most chemically dependent - and is used in about 40 percent of clothing. Cotton farming is responsible for 24% of insecticides and 11% of pesticides despite using only 3% of the world's arable land.
Organic cotton is a sustainable alternative to conventional cotton but it currently only account for about one percent of cotton growth. It also has drawbacks such as needing lots of water to grow and may be dyed with chemicals and shipped globally, creating a huge carbon footprint.
These mind-blowing facts tell us that the fashion industry is extremely wasteful and that overconsumption is a problem we contribute to individually. The next time you decide to buy an article of clothing, consider what role you want to play in our beautiful planet.