Can Fashion Be Sustainable?

Buying clothing made from recycled materials is one way to solve the problem of “fast fashion.”

When you think about protecting the environment, one of the first things that comes to mind is probably not the clothes you wear. However, the fashion industry plays a large role in environmental issues today. This has prompted some people to look more closely at how they can help the environment with their clothing choices in a movement called sustainable fashion. 

Fast fashion is a term for the way most clothes are made. They are produced quickly in large factories for little cost. Producing clothes this way means they can be sold for less money. Because clothing is more affordable than it used to be, people buy more clothes than they used to. They are also getting rid of more clothing than they used to. This can lead to problems for the environment.  

Clothing is more difficult to recycle than paper, metal, or glass. It is hard to separate the different components such as threads, labels, and elastic. This means many of yesterday’s fashions are filling up landfills [a system of trash disposal where garbage is buried underneath layers of dirt] today.  

The process for making many of today’s clothes also causes problems. The conditions for people making clothing are often dangerous. Many of the dyes used to give clothes their color can make workers sick. Additionally, the fashion industry accounts for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions. This is the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which science has linked to global warming. These emissions are caused by the machines used to make the clothes. They are also caused by the transportation used to ship clothing from factories to stores and from stores to customers.  

This impact on the environment is leading to people thinking about ways the fashion industry can do less damage to the environment. Some companies specialize in making clothes that have less environmental impact. They use environmentally friendly materials such as hemp, linen, and organic cotton. They make clothing out of recycled fibers. They use renewable energy sources to provide power to the factories where they make their clothing.  

These clothes can take longer to make and cost more money. So, some consumers (people who buy a product) have different strategies for sustainable fashion. They may buy used clothes from secondhand stores. They might rent clothes, rather than buy them. Or they may buy fewer clothes, but make sure the clothes they do buy are built to last. 

What Do You Think? What are some ways you can protect the environment with the choices you make about clothes?

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