It is 2012 and we, the humans on Earth, are experiencing the grasps of the climate change activism era. Since Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” a seemingly long six years ago, some people have invigorated their earth-friendly senses. From turning off unnecessary lights during Earth Hour to a 5 cent charge on plastic bags in Toronto, a ‘green’ mind is on the rise. In this same day and age, many are not climate scientists. Regardless, the everyday person like you and I have become more socially conscious of our impact on the environment. Whatever the demographic, we are more aware than ever that our daily actions have some sort of impact. On the other hand, to the extent our impact effects the earth is up to your own perspective, education, and attitude.
The eco-friendly ‘craze’ now extends to one of the largest and most influential international economy: fashion. Whether it be haute couture to our basic Jockey undergarments, the need to be green is strong and clear. A great Canadian example of this conscious fashion movement is Eco-Fashion week. According to Forbes Magazine Online (Tracey Greenstein, Sept. 30, 2012), Eco-Fashion week is a Canadian invention (woot woot) which began in 2009. Initially a non-profit organization, the fashion week’s aim was to promote sustainable textile manufacturing. To understand why this rise on climate awareness in fashion is so significant, we need to understand fashion in itself.
In a nutshell, fashion is a trend of clothing. To the economy, fashion is a multi-billion dollar entrepreneur that has infinite exponential opportunities. According to Industry Canada’s statistics, the clothing industry generates a net revenue of about 2.3 billion dollars! That’s alot of jeans!
This graph shows the increasing economic success of clothing retail in Canada:
Net Revenues: 2001-2010
Clothing and Clothing Accessories Stores (NAICS 448)
For the environment, fashion has a huge indirect impact on the climate. A little known fact is that fashion heavily relies on agriculture. The change in climate has affected the ability for cotton and wool crops to prosper; a main resource for textiles. When fashion turns to alternative resources, such as polyester carbon footprints become a huge issue. Mass factory production emits harmful gases which hurt the atmosphere. Gases such as, nitrous oxide which hurts both the climate and the worker who is exposed to these toxic materials. In all these materials, water is often over-exploited in production. Every step from the development of the needed petro-chemicals for nylon and polyester, to the solvents used to fasten clothing, and the dyeing of fabric, these practices increases every piece of clothing’s impact. One method to combat this is the reuse of unorthodox materials such as water bottles.
Another method is to integrate the environment directly into the commerce of fashion. According to Gregor Pecnik, a sustainability consultant, eco-fashion can be a measure of environmental profit and loss. This means to assign a fiscal cost to environmental impacts. From this manufacturers become more aware of the financial side of environment harming procedures. In continuity with the financial push, environmental profit and loss can build a stronger competitive edge by making operations more efficient, reducing green house gas impact cost in production, and by subscribing to environmentally ethical consumer appeal. Although this opportunity is still a rising method, the climate relief can be exponentially huge coming from mass clothing producers.
They say that one man’s garbage is another man’s gold. The trend change of eco-fashion doesn’t just extend to new and renewable resources for designs, but used clothing has increased its popularity during this time. This element of eco-fashion exemplifies the second word of the recycling trinity: reuse. According to National Geographic, 2.5 billion pounds of fabric in the U.S.A. were averted from landfills in 2006 from re-using clothes. That’s about 5% of the total garbage in dumps! In addition to the relief to the environment, textile recycling provides about 17 000 jobs to Americans. Now to the fashion culture side of things, thrifty shopping is a key resource for top stylists. Words like vintage, one-of-a-kind, second-hand, and consignment can be found to describe the used industry. Some designers are even creating new apparel with the used material, such as local artist Ayla. Through the “revive, rescue, and responsible” processes, this Canadian company is able to reduce fabric waste and unnecessary fabric production.
Every season, designers must create something new and innovative. Fashion reflects history; apparel has the ability for social activism and passionate ethical opinion. Fashion has now moved from a time of modesty guidelines to environment principles. Various fashion houses such as Vivienne Westwood have commissioned and challenged designers to have the climate in mind both in an artistic sense and in actual production. From the drawing board all the way to clothing transportation, and to the new consumer education in washing clothing pieces without harsh non-degradable detergents, every detail must be considered in order to be recognized as a part of the green fashion trend.
It is clear that the roots of a strong environmental fashion conscious have formed. The connection between the shirt you wear from Wal-Mart to the future of our children’s climate is an idea which is becoming more clear and accessible in the era of green activism.
For your listening enjoyment: Madonna “Vogue“