On Sunday 1st July, I attended an event at the V&A Museum about sustainable clothing, hosted by the GFX (Global Fashion Exchange) and West London Waste Authority, which consisted of a variety of interesting talks about the textile and fashion industry, and the importance of making it both circular and transparent. This was followed by a clothes swap, promoting the concept of reusing clothes and giving them a second life.
The variety of different bitesize talks really gave an insight into the destructive nature of the textile and fashion industry, both socially and environmentally. All speakers were inspiring, and really driving the clothing industry to become more sustainable. The list included speakers from Fashion Revolution, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Common Objective, Traid, and the West London Waste Authority. It was eye-opening to think about the life cycle of the clothes we wear and buy, something many of us may take for granted – right from who makes them and where, how, and then where they may end up after they have been used. It is true that each and every garment in a person’s wardrobe has a life before and after use.
Key takeaways from the event:
- 100 billion garments are produced every year globally
- We produce 400% more clothing today compared with 20 years ago
- The average number of ‘wears’ per garment a person owns is just 4
- The fashion industry is the fifth most polluting in the world
- 100 million tonnes of non-renewables are used every year in the fashion industry globally
- 65% of clothes use polyester – and this contains microplastics, which are shed when clothes are washed
- Half a million tonnes – equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles – of plastic microfibres from washing garments ends up in the ocean every year on average, which in turn enters the food chain
- Extending the life of a garment by 3 months can reduce its carbon footprint by 5-10%
- Charity shops reduce the UK carbon footprint by 3.7 million tonnes a year
The garment industry is however evolving – there is an initiative from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to Make Fashion Circular, and promote the idea of the circular economy in this industry. Fashion 4 Change are striving to align all the brands they work with, with at least one Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). People and brands are becoming much more aware of what they are doing in this field.
It is time for individuals to also start making a change themselves, by considering lifestyle choices. By buying less often, moving away from ‘fast fashion’, and extending the lifetime of clothing already owned, it can really make a difference to the carbon footprint of a garment and help divert items from going to landfill.
If doing a wardrobe clear out, Traid offers a free home collection service, where they will collect unwanted garments, take it back to their warehouse to sort, grade, and then sell on in their stores. Similarly, donating to charity shops, or going to clothing swaps is a great way to give clothes a new home. Many retailers have now also started offering similar recycle services, such as John Lewis and M&S.
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