Our approach to clothing has become furiously fast and frivolous, with the high streets offering fashion fads for a matter of moments.
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We produce 80 billion new items of clothing a year
90% of clothing is made of genetically modified cotton
Cotton uses one quarter of global pesticides
An estimated 20% of industrial water pollution comes from textile manufacturing
It can take up to 20,000 litres to produce one kilogram of cotton
One in six people are employed in the fashion industry globally
Workers are largely underpaid, unprivileged, modern day slaves - 85% are women
Fast-fashion is one of the most environmentally damaging and socially regressive industries in the world. . . . the second largest polluter after oil
Avoiding fast fashion is the best way to avoid responsibility for the negative environmental and social impacts of the textile and production industries.
Check out your favourite brands for their ethical index, and email them for clarifications and to apply pressure.
To meet massive demand, global brands in the textiles industry take out contracts with factories all over the world, most often in poorer countries.
From dangers in the fields, disasters in production, slavery in manufacture, unsustainable shipping and waste management - it is normally the poverty stricken that pay the price of production. By forming long and circuitous supply chains, big brands quietly exploit people down the line keeping the huge profits for themselves.
Most people think charity shop donations solve the problem of quick clothing fix discards. But the truth is, the majority gets sold back to developing countries where they create more problems.
More than 60% of clothing is manufactured in developing countries, made predominantly by women..
China dominated the cheap labour market and has since increased wages to match inflation. As a result, clothing corporations have begun moving to cheaper countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan and the Philippines.
War on Want's Stitched Up report found 86% of Bangladeshi clothing workers were women between 18-31 years who earn just £32 a month. Extra work is demanded suddenly and without warning to meet delivery contracts, so one third work of the women were found to have worked 100-140 hours unpaid overtime breaking international labour laws.
Cotton is one of the most wasteful industries for water. It takes 10,000 litres of water to make one kilogram of cotton. In countries like India, lack of regulation makes this more like 22,500 litres.
The cotton used in producing one t-shirt is the equivalent of flushing the toilet 250 times, the amount of water a person drinks in 900 days.
India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and around 600 million people face a severe water shortage. In 2013, the water consumed to grow India’s cotton exports was enough to supply 85 per cent of the country’s 1.5 billion people with 100 litres of water every day for a year.
Agriculture is the largest source of pollution in most countries, and cotton is the world’s most important non-food agricultural commodity.
It covers less than 2.5 per cent of the world’s crop land yet it accounts for a huge 24 percent of insecticide sales and 11 per cent of pesticides. The industry is worth $2 billion of chemical pesticides each year, within which $819 million are considered toxic enough to be classified as hazardous by the World Health Organisation.
The world's top textile exporter China is suffering as experts estimate that 70% of lakes and rivers, and 90% of all groundwater is already polluted. The impacts of fast fashion are clear and catastrophic as 320 million Chinese people do not have access to clean drinking water – more than the entire population of the United States.
In 2013, the world witnessed the worst factor disaster in contemporary manufacturing history. 1,134 people were killed and 2,500 injured in the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh which was used for quick, premium clothing contracts by Bennetton, Bonmarche, El Corte Ingles, Monsoon Accessorize, Mango, Matalan,
Appalling building work, fire and electrical safety conditions were to blame. Colossal but careless American and European apparel brands have been primarily focused on writing unfair contracts which put unbearable time pressure on factories. And if they miss the order? They have to keep all the clothes branded to that company and are forbidden from selling them to anyone else, bearing all costs of the production which could drive them into bankruptcy.
Globalisation means that our new clothes have likely travelled halfway around the world in a container ship fuelled by the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Fifty years ago 95% of clothing was made close to home. Today, now less than 10% of our clothing is manufactured in the UK.
90 per cent of our goods arrive on gigantic liners, but the shipping industry's carbon emissions aren't recognised in the United Nations climate change models.
This means there's no accounting for the massive carbon emissions of the shipping industry in our climate models.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
The global fashion industry is unacceptably exploitative and environmentally damaging. But a growing awareness with pressure from consumers can prevent big brands from secretively making unsustainable clothing contracts for quick mass orders, straining workers in countries where manufacturing is a crucial economy.
As customers, power lies with the pounds we spend, where companies supply our demand with more production and products. We must demand a fairer deal for the millions and millions of enslaved workers.
The growing culture of fast fashion in the last few years has seen billions of garments donated to charity.
However, believe it or not but only 10-30 per cent of donated clothes actually get sold in UK charity shops.
The rest all make their way back to eastern European and African to create new problems, undercutting the work and wages at new fabric factories there.
Find pre-loved, sustainable clothing with a story. One person's waste is another's gold. Enjoy treasure hunting in charity shops to fulfil your needs. If you can't find exactly what you want, maybe you don't need it? When you are looking for something special, it will manifest when it's meant to
Repair your rips, and swap clothes with mates. Upcycle clothes into creations you'll love to prevent new purchases.