Tag: manufacturing

Why Fast Fashion Becomes Fast Trash

Our planet needs some love. Fashion. Fast fashion, to be exact, is hurting our planet and the people in it. The fashion industry is the second dirtiest in the world, next to oil & gas. The good news? More and more people are now choosing sustainable clothing options. We’re beginning to realize that fast fashion becomes fast trash.

Fifty Seasons a Year (srly?)

Whether it?s high-waisted jean shorts, two-piece pant suits, or pineapple print button down, trends seem to cycle in and out weekly. Styles, colors, and prints are marketed and changed every season. What’s more, the fashion industry isn’t limited to four seasons. The need to stay competitive has led to fashion micro-seasons that number?50-100 a year. People have become conditioned to believe that they must wear the latest trend and that clothing is disposable.

50 micro seasons in fast fashion
The average consumer bought 60% more clothing in 2014 than in 2000, but kept them half as long. ~McKinsey & Company

The Spell of Convenience

As a 23 year old woman, I can understand what’s driving this trend. Just recently I bought a new pair of shorts from one of the many fast fashion stores. I remember thinking, “these probably won’t last long but it doesn?t matter because they’ll be out of style before they fall apart.” I realize this is a terrible mentality. And yet, it’s what happens when we’re looking for convenience. It’s also explains why fast fashion impacts our planet to such a high degree.?Every purchase and disposal of clothing is a burden on our planet’s resources.

Fashion + Commerce

Fashion existed long before commerce did, and satisfies deep human needs; a sense of self and sense of belonging or differentiating oneself from a group. At its root fashion is not unsustainable. Rather, it’s our current way of pursuing commerce, which is unsustainable. ~Lynda Grose, Fashion Isn’t the Problem, the Industry Needs to Change

In order to better align the beauty and artistry of fashion with everyday commerce, we must first understand the impact of the fast fashion life cycle.

Fast Fashion: A Look Behind the Curtain

Here’s an example of the journey our clothes make before they end up in our closet.

Fast fashion supply chain

The fast fashion supply chain. At every stage there exists extraction and pollution of our natural resources.

There are many steps involved in the process that lead to fast fashion’s impact on the planet. Starting with raw materials, clothing dye, textile manufacturing, clothing construction, shipping, retail, use and disposal, the fashion industry creates a large footprint from beginning to end. Pesticides to grow the cotton, toxic dyes, transportation

pollution, water and the eventual discarding of the clothes add to the impact.

1. What it Takes to Grow Raw Materials

Cotton and polyester are the two most used fibers in fashion. Polyester is made by chemical reaction involving coal, air, water and petroleum. This process uses a large amount of energy, usually supplied by petroleum or coal.

A study performed by MIT estimated that polyester production releases 706 billion kgs of green house gases every year, equal to 185 coal plant?emissions.

It takes 2,700 liters to make a cotton shirtCotton, the most common natural fiber, makes up?33% of the fibers in textile industry. It has a huge environmental footprint as it requires higher levels of pesticides and water. With the high demand for cotton, Ukraine has already started to experience issues from the large amount of water needed to grow it.

The Aral Sea water levels are 10% of what they were 50 years ago due to rivers having been diverted for irrigation. China, India, USA, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and Brazil are also textile supply chain countries with regions of high water stress.

 

2. Clothing Dye: Sending it Down River

Many of the dyes made for the clothing industry leads to the dumping of chemicals into nearby rivers. Dye run off often contains many heavy metals and chemicals harmful to aquatic life and people living down river. New technologies have been invented to mitigate this impact but they are expensive. Many of these locations are in poor areas and these new technologies aren’t a realistic solution. With sizable textile factories lining its shores, Indonesia’s Citarum River has become one of the most polluted rivers in the world. It is an open sewer containing lead, mercury, arsenic and a host of other toxins.

3. Textile Factories: Time to Look at Waste and Safety

Textile factors are often detrimental to both the environment and the locals who work there. Excess fabric is a byproduct of pattern cutting and it creates significant waste. Same goes for high water usage and chemical waste involved in the manufacturing process. Think about the shirt you are wearing. If your shirt was cut from a square of fabric, think about how much extra fabric is left over. It is cheaper for factories to throw away excess fabric than it is for them to maximize use.

The increased demand for cheap, fast fashion as resulted in more and more factories opening in developing?countries. Young women 18-24 primarily work at these factories, making as little as $3 a day. These sweat shops are hire underage workers for long hours, low pay, and horrible conditions. The death of over 1,000 workers in Bangladesh 5 years ago,?caused by the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building, drove the government to?shut-down 18 garment factories over growing safety concerns.

4. Transport: Your Clothes Are World Travelers

When is the last time you bought something that was ?made in the USA?? With more than 60% of clothing?manufactured in developing countries, our clothes are already world travelers before they reach retailers. As regulation and costs continue to rise, many clothing companies look to move operations overseas. Not only can they pay workers pennies to the ?dollar compared to wages in the USA, but they can also skirt around the limited or non-existent environmental regulations.

A single large container ship can emit cancer and asthma-causing pollutants equivalent to that of 50 million cars. ~The Guardian

Plane, train, boat, truck and arriving packed in plastic, these clothing items have a huge a environmental footprint before they even reach your local retail store.

5. Retailers: Viva la Plastic

I’ve worked in retail and have seen firsthand how clothes arrive at the store. Items are individually packaged in plastic, as if each needed a hazmat suit to protect it from the plague. Every time we stocked our shelves, we were left with at least three trash bags full of plastic. My store was small, so this only happened 3 times a week. On top of it, we give you a bag to take home. Think about that. These clothes arrive in a bag. We throw out that bag. Then we give you a new bag to take with you. It’s easy to see why so much waste is created before we even ware the clothes!

6. Second Hand: Show the Love

Since fashion styles are constantly changing, clothes aren?t designed to last long. That means clothing doesn’t make it to second hand locations. Only about 20% of used clothes end up being sold in second hand retailers.?The rest end up stacked?in landfills. American send 10.5 million tons of clothing to landfills every year.

When you buy something old and previously-loved, you’re extending its lifespan and reducing its carbon footprint. ~Emily Farra, editor Vogue

What Can You Do?

What to hear something great? The tips and tricks included below will not only help our planet, they will help your wallet, too. Here are a few ways you can do well for yourself and do good for our planet. Go green and get rich!

1. Reduce

Kick the fast fashion habit. Instead of buying a bunch of poorly made cheap and disposable clothes, invest in some well made long lasting classic pieces. Become aware of the clothing brand’s ethos. Are they just in it for the profit? Are they fair trade? Do they protect the environment or pollute it?? Support those companies that focus on sustainable manufacturing and are not only taking steps to limit their environmental impact but also support the well being of their workers.

Related Content: How This Social Start-up Is Changing The Way We Shop

2. Reuse

If everyone switched from buying new clothes to buying used, we could save 165 billion lbs of CO2.?This is the equivalent of all the car exhaust in LA for 4 years! We could also save?350 billion kilowatt hours of electricity?(the equivalent of powering 32 million homes per year!) And we could save?13 trillion gallons of water (all the water needed by California over 14 years!)

girl in black shirt

Join the second hand clothing trend. In the past 5 years, used clothing purchasers have increased from 11% to 24% and the trend continues to grow. As??77%?of millennials prefer to buy from environmentally-
conscious brands, they are leading the thrift trends. Everyday we see
?more and more options to buy second hand, from local consignment shops to online thrift stores.

Buying a used garment extends its life on average by 2.2 years which reduces carbon, waste and water footprint by 73%. ~ThredUp

I tried ThreadUp and was happy with the quality and large variety. Here’s a picture of a sports bra and top I bought for 70% off retail!

3. Recycle

The good news? Brands are waking up. At the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2017, the Global Fashion Agenda called on fashion?brands and retailers to sign a commitment to accelerate the transition to a?circular fashion system.? The system looks at 4 action points:

  1. Implement design strategies for cyclability.
  2. Increase the volume of used garments collected.
  3. Increase the volume of used garments resold.
  4. Increase the share of garments made from recycled post-consumer textile fibres.
After just one year, 93 companies, representing 207 brands and 12% of the global fashion market, have committed to set a target for 2020 on one or more of the four action points.

4. Take Baby Steps + Shop With Your Heart

Because we’ve made our voices heard, companies are stepping up. Now is your chance to support companies that are working toward aligning fashion with commerce. Here are a few final tips:

  • Don’t get sucked into fast fashion.
  • Buy for beauty, authenticity and longevity. Our clothes should last.
  • Shop secondhand stores.
  • Support stores that promote?sustainable shopping.

Fashion can be beautiful and timeless, an expression of our creativity. Use your money to create the kind of world you want to see. You’ll feel good in your clothes when you shop with intention.


Photo by Demetrius Washington

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How this Social Start-Up is Changing the Way We Shop

More people are choosing sustainable shopping

Ryan Lewis of EarthHero outside the office

Ryan Lewis of EarthHero outside the Boulder, CO office

*EarthHero is giving WellWallet readers $20 toward their first order.*

Ryan Lewis is just getting started. Last we spoke with the CEO of EarthHero, they had just launched their eco-friendly marketplace in time for the holidays.

Since then, they have expanded to over 60 brands and 1,000 products and expanded their community to over 20,000 members.

The Boulder start-up is now ready to bring their highly curated list of sustainable brands to a larger audience.?Much of their growth is due to their expanded presence online. ?The biggest change: they?ve gotten to know their customers a lot better.

?Much of our initial outreach focused on HOW we?re helping solve the sustainability problem by curating high quality, eco-friendly products.

However, we?ve realized our mission faces several challenges, and by people who care and want change. ?Which brands to trust? Which products create real impact, and what does that mean? Or, where to even start!? They are also expanding to Instagram and Pinterest. ?We want to hang out where our customers are hanging out.”

What problems is EarthHero solving?

Helping People and Planet

?People care. There is a growing population of people that care about the problems we are causing the planet. From ocean pollution, to greenhouse emissions, to natural resource depletion and animal rights, the list is endless.? ?

Sign with 1860 trees planted

EarthHero gives back to charity in various ways. They are a proud member of 1% for the Planet.

One thing everyone can agree on: ?we collectively create a lot of trash and it just doesn?t feel right. There?s a better way. And small changes are easy to implement. We?ll get there. As a community, we?re accelerating the impact of living more sustainably.? ?

EarthHero?s specialty is in promoting brands that use sustainable materials, treat their employees well, and give back to their communities. They want to make conscious shopping easy for everyone.

Addressing Shopper Fatigue

Lewis believes there?s also good amount of shopper fatigue. Shopping has become commoditized. There are thousands of choices, no relationship between the consumer and what they are buying, no connection to the impact of that purchase.

All of this ?adds to the hollow and chaotic feeling of having all of this stuff in our lives. On the other hand, shopping mindfully leads to good relationships with the things in your life. And that just feels better?, says Lewis.

 

What we don’t know about the stuff we buy

Ryan Lewis knows there are challenges. For example, most people don’t realize that the apparel industry is the second most polluting industry, after oil and gas. Even in Boulder, much of what is consumed and thrown away is out of sight, out of mind. Every time we accept individually wrapped samples, or buy that 10th pair of shoes, we don?t think about the manufacturing process and the impact it has on the environment.

Ryan standing in his warehouse

CEO Ryan Lewis at the EarthHero warehouse.

?It?s hard for people to know about the ways in which all the stuff is created in our lives and the impact to Mother Nature.

But this message is buried by the overwhelming marketing of big brands telling us we need to buy more and upgrade everything. I love talking about a different way. We can do better.?

 

So how does the team at EarthHero plan to do this? One way is to give people lifestyle roadmaps and guides to more conscious and mindful ways of thinking. And start small. For example, start with one-time use items.

Step 1: take the items in your life that you use one time and then throw away. Can you replace them with something else? None of us need to buy more plastic water bottles. And if you wrap your sandwich in aluminum foil, there are products that are re-usable and compostable.

Customers trust EarthHero’s vetting process

EarthHero?s customers trust the curation of good brands. Every time the EarthHero team onboards a new vendor, customers are raising their hand to support these brands. This is because customers know and appreciate EarthHero?s vetting process. ?Our community trusts us to make great decisions as we look for the best possible products available. We love product launches and our customers do too?, says Lewis.

EarthHero has a proprietary and stringent process for determining which brands to allow into their marketplace. ?There are Planet, People and Give Back requirements for all vendors.

EarthHero selection criteriaRefining the selection process has taken a lot of conversations. ?It?s getting more and more detailed. We listen to every piece of customer feedback?, says Lewis. For example, people don?t like the plastic that?s included in the apparel that is shipped. Some of that plastic is made from recycled plastic, but EarthHero is pushing their vendors to move to zero plastic.

A nice side effect of their selection process: vendors are starting to lean on EarthHero for their expertise in packaging practices. While they can?t yet offer products that are 100% sustainable, their goal is to accelerate the movement to help us get there as quickly as possible.

Launching a sustainable business? Keep this in mind.

More and more start-ups are looking to work sustainability into their business practices. Here are Lewis? top suggestions for up-and-coming social entrepreneurs:

  1. Stay true to your mission. Be really clear who you are and why you?re doing it.
  2. Remember that it takes time and timing. ??I oscillate between patience and persistence ? I mess things up when I get this wrong.?
  3. Be open to, but careful with advice. People will influence, challenge and support what you?re doing.?Listen, and apply if it helps you move your mission forward.?
  4. Listen to your customers. ?When you have an idea and you build the thing, as soon as you put it out there, you?ll get feedback. Be open to that feedback. Be ready to adjust.?
  5. Don?t pivot for the sake of pivoting. Really get to know the customers you?re trying to serve and the problem you?re trying to solve. If there?s a different method for accomplishing that goal without doing an overhaul, figure it out.

?We didn?t get all of these things exactly right and we?re still figuring it out. But every day we are learning.?

Related: How to Work Sustainability Into Your Business Idea

The Vision: 5 Years Out

In five years, Lewis and his team at EarthHero want to help accelerate the movement so it becomes normal.?

?Every time someone swipes or inserts their credit card, we want them to ask themselves: what?s the impact of my purchase? Am I investing in companies doing good, or not?

We want to help people make these conscious decisions the path of least resistance, the easiest way to shop,?as we shift to a more mindful consumer culture.

People don?t compromise on a mass scale, nor should they be expected to, so we aim to create an exceptional experience.”

Why sustainable shopping fits your budget

Would you like to purchase sustainable products but feel it is out of your price range? According to Lewis,??When you become more mindful about the things you buy, you buy less.?

In other words, do we really need all of those pairs of jeans? Or would a couple of high quality pairs from a sustainably sourced manufacturer be better? Sounds like a sensible approach to us!

Plus, over time, you will end up spending less when you purchase reusable products. Think about the cost (to your wallet and the planet) of all those plastic water bottles and sandwich bags. If you replaced these with multi-use products, you’ll save money?and our planet.?

Special offer for WellWallet readers

EarthHero is giving WellWallet readers $20 toward their first order. Check out their unique gifts under $50. Here are a few ideas for great products that support our planet:

  1. Sustainable electronics
  2. Eco apparel
  3. Travel backpacks, wallets, phone cases
  4. ?and 1K more ideas

Put your money where your heart is. Shop with intention and feel good about how your money moves in the world.

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