It seems like one of the hottest topics in sustainability is the fashion industry, and mostly because it has a massive and extremely negative environmental footprint.
From the factory conditions and emissions, to the disposal and type of dyes used, to the materials used which are often cottons crop dusted with pesticides or plastic based textiles, or even fabrics or materials requiring mistreatment or death of animals. Not to mention the mass amount of waste in the fashion industry when they overproduce and undersell, and ultimately much of this clothing is either burned or ends up in a landfill or hillside in a third world country where you think you are donating your clothes.
The real problem is our consumerism and a need to be a part of the fast fashion trends. It wasn’t always this way, things were made slower and with a better quality. We purchased less, and purchased less often, but things have changed. There are counterfeits, fashion bloggers, social media stars and platforms that make individuals feel they must always have the latest and greatest outfit and only wear it once. There were once different seasons in the fashion industry, but now items, aside from high fashion, there seems to be clothing created every couple weeks or maybe even weekly. Clothing has gotten cheaper and cheaper and the quality has gotten worse and worse. Now, maybe you might only wear the item a few times before you throw it away, but someone still made that clothing and that clothing still came from resources, and that matters.
So what can you do about it?
If you are a brand in the fashion industry, you can seek to slowly transform not only your materials but your practices and the release of your product to be more sustainable. You can practice slow fashion, You can treat your workers right. You can source ethical and environmentally responsible materials. You can even help to create new sustainable industries in places where it is lacking and teach farmers and other producers how to do things right and then hire them. This can go so far beyond just where you source from, and you can literally educate others to produce better, inspire peers to purchase better, and give customers options to shop better.
You can have positive impacts in many different places and you don’t have to do it all at once, but you should start somewhere. And well sure maybe it’s not that easy to source the most ethical and sustainable materials in the exact colors, textures, and feel that you want, think about how much easier it is now than it was 5 years ago and 10 years ago.
It is getting progressively easier to find sustainable materials because the demand is going up, and therefore the supply goes up. With all new innovation, it will always start as more difficult to obtain and more expensive, but that's to be expected and it's just a simple lesson of economics. If we all choose to do the right thing, the price will go down by the economies of scale. If we switch society's demand curve, the price on the other things will ultimately go up, and the world will become a better place.
In the meantime, I'm not simply suggesting you pour all of your capital into these radical changes, but the first step I like to suggest for everyone is to figure out where can you cut costs, where can you trim the fat that is being wasted unnecessarily? How much can you trim? Now let’s see how much money you can come up with monthly, over six months, and over a year from this trimming and let’s see where that money could be invested initially to start the more significant positive impact.
Also, the reality is that customers are changing all over the world and they are becoming more educated about how their dollars are spent and how they want their dollars to be spent. The trend luckily for you is all about sustainability, partially because of climate change, which has then led to policy change, but partially because of awareness from media and social media. It’s hard to turn a blind eye to what’s happening all over the world to plants, animals, people, the oceans, etc.. People are realize that their dollars can make a difference and they’re willing to spend more and spend it right, so it is an opportunity to tap into the customer base and gain their loyalty.