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What Is The Environmental Impact Of Our Clothing Habits?

Fast fashion makes shopping for clothes more affordable, but it comes at an environmental cost. As consumers worldwide buy more clothes, the growing market for cheap items and new styles is taking a toll on the environment. On average, people bought 60% more garments in 2014 than they did in 2000. At the same time, it means the production volume has rocketed as well. Earlier on I’ve already told you about the traps and pitfalls of the traditional fashion industry production- and distribution-wise, but earlier this month, when we were working on the sustainability report for DressX, another thought struck me. I started to think about the whole lifecycle of the clothes.

All in all, the production and distribution are only the first steps in the long (I wish it was so) lifetime of the clothing. After the piece is delivered to its owner, other life episodes begin — service and maintenance, which basically means wearing and washing the clothes. And at this point we encounter another pitfall — washing always implies detergents.

We very rarely think about how washing products affect the environment. And the influence is extremely negative. When after-washing water is discharged not into the central sewerage, but into the soil, a number of hazardous substances eventually enter the water bodies, for example, phosphates, surface-active agents, bleaches, GMP. After the phosphates make it into the pounds or rivers, the uncontrolled growth of bioactivity begins. Water starts to bloom, cyanobacteria multiplies, and toxins go at large. Toxins release results in oxygen deficiency, fish extinction, and the poisoning of both animals and people. The biomass, which rapidly multiplies in the upper layer of water, does not transmit sunlight to the depths, and the fish and animals that are fed by benthic plants begin to disappear.

As a result of these processes, the ecosystem of the pounds and rivers transforms, most of the flora and fauna perish, and the water can no longer be used for drinking or residential purposes.

After delving into all the impacts of the laundry, ironing, and dry cleaning processes, we decided to come up with a comparison of the environmental effect of real garments and digital ones during the ‘use’ phase.

Shocking outcomes, aren’t they? Anyway, traditional clothing will undoubtedly stay with us until the human body learns to warm itself or society lifts the restriction on going out naked, but its amount can diminish significantly if we at least transfer our “for-Instagram wardrobe” to the digital dimension.

Co-authored with Elena Saraniuk

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