Is fashion a danger to our environment?
These past years one has quite often heard of awful accidents in factories where clothes are made. These factories are in countries like Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, where working conditions are far below what we are used to in Western countries. Wages are not enough to provide food for a family and working hours are more than what is considered human. Do not even think about having a day off or holidays, all concepts which are considered our rights are often non-existent.
Unhuman like conditions
We would not be willing to work under these type of conditions, so fashion brands take the work to countries where jobs are needed and wages below the minimum. All of this, just to give the western world the privilege of being up to date with fashion. To make this fashion affordable, these measures seem to be necessary.
“Slave” labor in the garment industry
We have heard about those awful accidents like that big fire which claimed 100 victims. Fire escape doors and extinguishers are not there or too few so that any fire would cost many lives. The garment industry in the U.S. knows this kind of tragedy all too well, as, in 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire claimed the lives of 146 people. The U.S. modified their fire codes to help prevent these kinds of terrible events from ever happening again.
Now we just moved the slave labor overseas. To areas where people must work in below substandard conditions and dangerous environments. When a catastrophe does strike, people who were the only breadwinner are suddenly not there anymore. In these countries, those families cannot fall back on help from a social security system, something we find normality.
If all this were not enough, some new data has come to light which makes one rethink about our shopping habits. We live in a consumerism-driven economy. A buy and throw away society, to make a place for the latest fashion. It is quite alarming how easily we waste clothes when somewhere else people have hardly anything to wear. Influenced by advertisements, tv, internet, and blogs by people, we buy the latest without realizing the effects it has on our environment.
The fashion industry seems to be one of the top five most-polluting industries in the world. This is quite amazing as one normally thinks that the oil industry is the main culprit. We know by now that plastic is polluting our planet. Then there are too many cars and transport in general which pollute the air. But would you have thought that the fashion branch would add to pollution?
100 billion new garments from new fibers are produced every year
That is a huge amount and our planet cannot sustain that. There are many things involved with making a garment. To produce cotton, which is the most common fiber used in textiles produced in the EU, one needs pesticides, toxic dyes in the manufacturing, and heaps of water. Actually, the volume of water needed is more than one can imagine. Did you know that for one pair of jeans 2000 gallons ( 7600 liters ) liters of water are needed to grow the cotton and the manufacturing process? When one realizes that 2,000 million people do not have their daily drinkable water guaranteed, this figure is really a scandal.
I live in the south of Spain and have a household of 2 people, some animals, and farmland. For personal use we calculate half a cubic meter, that is 500 liters a day. That means that the 7800 liters needed for 1 pair of jeans would keep us going for many days. That is a figure which makes you think.
Have you heard of the disappearing of the Aral Sea?
This sea was one of the biggest inland seas in the world. Tourists would go there and admire its beauty. It was the home of fish and a lot of wildlife depending on its water. It used to be huge with 68,000 sq km. It started to shrink in the 1960s because of cotton production. Now it looks like a desert landscape, all dry. One of its feeding rivers – the Amu Darya – has been diverted and all its water is used for cotton production farms with no water left over to feed the sea. There you see how cotton production can have an altering and negative effect on our ecosystems and environment.
More places in the world with problems
The river Citarum in Indonesia is one of those places linked with garment making. There are 400 factories and these factories pollute the waterways on a daily basis. This water is used by the local people to do their washing and personal hygiene and now it turns out this water is loaded with mercury, cadmium, lead, and arsenic. What effect does the toxic level of the water have on the people? That is really something to ponder upon.
Take for example mercury. Your health will suffer if you breathe it, eat it, and also if your skin comes in contact with it. These people swim in it. Big companies Like Zara, Asos, M&S, and Monsoon are not really open to discussing these type of issues.
The Jeans Brand Levi’s
Luckily, the awareness of causing harm to people and the environment as a whole, does make some people think. Mr. Dillinger, who is the head of global production for the jeans brand Levi’s has voiced concern. They are trying to work on a solution by taking old garments, chemically deconstruct them and make them into new fiber. This new fiber feels and looks like cotton but has zero water impact.
This is a good start. If we want to go shopping, ignorant of all issues connected and the effects on large areas in the world, governments will have to make new laws. Otherwise, it is up to us to force the fashion brands to realize this. Their earning potential will fall unless they start investing in eco-friendly production. Although this might be still somewhere in the future, we must make them aware of the damage done and at least starts thinking about it.
Shopping Trends have changed
Nowadays the internet is growing more and more powerful and younger people, in particular, follow trends set by their fashion influencers. One of them, Niomi Smart has started to call for a change in attitude. Having been informed about the damage fast fashion causes on the world, she thinks that talking directly to her followers might bring in results.
To wear a new outfit more than once or perhaps swap it with your family or friends should not be looked down on. To suddenly stop shopping is not realistic. We must become aware of the millions of gallons of fresh water needed to grow cotton or the fact that this water is then polluted with toxic chemicals to dye the clothes. Water belongs to all the people in the world, it is a basic right. We should rethink our actions and stop wasting water this way.
Source: BBC, story by Radhika Sanghani on 9 October 2018
Photo Source: Pixabay
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