The following is an excerpt from Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution (2012, New Internationalist) by Safia Minney.
It seems like a very small thing to us, choosing a T-shirt or a dress made of organic rather than conventional cotton. but it can make a big difference at the other end of the chain. The environmental impact of fashion is something that needs to concern us all. What’s clear is that fashion’s environmental footprint at the moment is unsustainable. The evidence is overwhelming. For example, the British clothing and textiles sector alone currently produces around 3.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, two million tons of waste, and 70 million tons of waste water per year—with 1.5 million tons yearly of unwanted clothing and textiles ultimately ending up in a landfill. This means that we each throw away an average of 30 kilos a year.
We need to consume less fashion and wear our clothes for longer, while the fabrics and clothes that we do buy need to have more “value added”—benefitting not only the farmers but also as many artisans as possible in its transformation to clothing.
People will destroy the environment they’re dependent on only when there seems to be no alternative.
Fair trade can make a big difference here.
Fair trade takes a long-term view, working in partnership with producers and enabling communities to “invest” in environmental initiatives and diversify. It recognizes that, if farmers are given even half a chance, they will protect the environment.
After all, why would people whose lives are so dependent on the resources of their natural surroundings, destroy their environment? The answer is that they only do so when driven to it by low prices, unfair terms of trade, and the insecurity that comes from not knowing where your children’s next meal will come from. They only do it when there seems to be no alternative.
Fair trade, social businesses, and new economics are leading the way in showing how we can protect the environment and help the poor feed themselves.
Organic farming takes 1.5 tons of CO2 per acre per year out of the atmosphere.
Supporting low chemical inputs, transitional and organic farming is also vital. Polyester, the most widely used manufactured fiber, is made from petroleum. The manufacture of this and other synthetic fabrics is an energy-intensive process requiring large amounts of crude oil and releasing millions of tons of CO2.
With oil supplies dwindling, we have to find alternatives to oil-intensive farming methods now, before it’s too late. Organic farming takes 1.5 tons of CO2 per acre per year out of the atmosphere.
Organic and fair-trade cotton has helped to reduce water consumption by over 60 percent in the Indian state of Gujarat.
Water is another vital resource being overconsumed by the fashion industry. Conventionally grown cotton is one of the most water-dependent crops to be grown. It takes over 2,000 liters of water to produce the average T-shirt with conventional cotton. Organic and fair-trade cotton has helped to reduce water consumption by over 60 percent in the Indian state of Gujarat by supporting farmers who invest in drip irrigation.