Updated: Sep 18, 2019
There are more than 7.7 Billion people on the planet. Each of us has unique taste’s and evolving wardrobes. To satiate our desires for a constant slew of new styles, the fast fashion industry evolved.
Today, the global textile industry is estimated at $3 Trillion, with the number of garments produced annually exceeding 20 items of clothing for every person on earth. New trends appear weekly, gone by the next. It is estimated that more than half of fast fashion produced is disposed of in under a year.
Clothing is ready for purchase wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, in every single moment. With a few simple clicks, the newest trends arrive at your door to be worn a few times then replaced by the next. Clothing was once was made to be cared for, not to crumble.
This onslaught of clothing coming into our homes has had major impacts on the way business is done, the condition of our environment, and the consciousness of our culture.
Business: Everyone’s a Buyer and Everyone’s a Seller
Whereas the fashion industry was traditionally dominated by fashion houses, the barriers to entry have diminished. These days, anyone can open their own shop. Whether selling second hand items through marketplaces like Ebay and Poshmark, sharing original creations through Etsy and Pintrest, or drop shipping someone else's designs through Amazon and Shopify, the opportunities to get involved in the buying and selling of fashions has never been more simple, more confusing, or more inspiring.
The Environment: Diminishing Resources and Increasing Pollution
Fashion’s true environmental scope is astounding. The apparel and textile industry is now the 2nd most polluting industry in the world (second only to oil), and accounts for nearly 10% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.
Negative impacts of the growing fashion industry include the depletion of natural resources, the release of pollutants throughout the manufacturing and production stages, and the build-up of textile waste.
Natural Resource Depletion
Large amounts of nonrenewable resources are extracted to produce clothes that are often used for only a short period. The industry relies on 98 million tonnes in total of non-renewable resources per year. 7 trillion litres of water are consumed on an annual basis in order to meet global textile demands. The Aral Sea has nearly disappeared because cotton farmers draw water excessively from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers.
It takes 2,700 liters of water—what one person drinks in two-and-a-half years—to make one cotton shirt.
Significant volumes of chemicals are used to produce clothing and other textiles. For example, growing cotton involves pesticides, herbicides, and oil-powered machinery. About 20 percent of industrial water pollution is due to garment manufacturing, while total greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production, at 1.2 billion tonnes annually, are more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
Then there is the journey one garment takes around the world on oil-gulping ships to be spun in one country, then sewn in another factory powered by coal and generators, then finished in yet another, buttons and zippers from another continent, packaged, and shipped to stores, briefly worn, tossed into the landfill, or shipped back around the world to secondhand markets.
As CO2 emissions and greenhouse gas are released into the atmosphere, they contribute to climate change and global warming, which pose the most serious threat to our planet and lives. These hazardous substances escape into the environment, and the accumulation of toxic substances in polluted water or food sources affect the health of all of us around the world.
Disposing of the old product can be just as costly to the environment as manufacturing a new one.
Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned.
An estimated USD 500 billion value is lost every year due to clothing that’s barely worn and rarely recycled. Today, mountains of textile waste tower over landfills across the world, releasing emissions into the air while polluting our groundwater through ‘leachates’ – the liquid that drains out from landfill. This problem looks set to become all the more vertiginous as the world’s population swells to eight billion and beyond.
The Cultural Consciousness (Zeitgeist):
Consciousness is awereness. Fashion fuels our consciousness on numerous levels…
Awareness of Self - Fashion can shift perceptions of the self. Designers alter not only the physical form of the clothes on your back but the psychological ramifications of wearing them. The development of future fashions innately contributions to our perception of our selves as living, breathing beings.
Awareness of Others - Many garment workers are suffering poor working conditions with long hours and low pay, and there are some instances of modern slavery and child labour. Though there is still a lot of mistreatment of workers and animals around the world, the more we become aware of these things, the more transparency is demanded and the better companies are choosing to support, rather than coerce, everyone involved in the success of their business.
Awareness of Broader Impact - Disposability teaches us to undervalue our possessions. Holding on to old items and finding new uses for them teaches us to appreciate them more. Global demand for clothing looks set to increase significantly over the coming decade, as millions of people in developing countries enter the middle class and spend more on apparel. Assuming infinite resources in a finite world is not a sustainable business model, unchecked consumption will undermine the world’s economic and social goals. As we recognize the extinction of speicies, the pollution of our waterways, and the reduction in once abundant natural resources, sustainable alternatives to the wasteful fast fashion model are popping all over the world.
People are waking up, and growing more conscious of our impact. Millenial and Gen Z generations are proving to lead our world towards a new consciousness. A consciousness that cares deeply for the welfare of our people and planet, recognizing the immediate dangers of our current crisis, growing more conscious of their choices, and putting major thought into the conscious creation of a sustainable future.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, a favorable horizon available to us if we choose it. But will the fashion industry be slowed while sustainability is still an option, or will we exhaust our resources and permanently degrade the state of our natural environment?
DBC believes in a sustainable future that is truly abundant, where everyone gets the variety they desire and where things become more beautiful with time. We believe in a renewable circular economy to replace the highly wasteful linear system of make, take, dispose.
Fashion presents an ideal way to address climate change on a grand, beautiful scale and there are many different ways to contribute. One of the core fundamentals, a concept no so widely recognized years ago, is the reuse of existing materials to create something new. Something more beautiful. This is called upcycle design. And as an incredibly useful tool in keeping the planet clean, green and pleasant, the need to upcycle is more imperative than ever.