9 Alarming Things You Must Know About Buying Sustainable Fashion in 2019 (#1 Will Blow Your Mind)Alena
Sustainable fashion is an inherent contradiction, because you can’t slow down the effects of climate change by buying more stuff. We need to lower our carbon footprint dramatically, and we can not do that if we keep buying and producing at current rates, even if we produce in more ‘eco friendly’ ways. We need buy less and choose better, meaning that we need to make informed choices, not impulsive trendy ones. As fast fashion brands like H&M and Zara venture into “sustainable” fashion, the term is getting more polarised and nuanced. Similarly, the amount of greenwashing occurring in the fashion industry at the moment is daunting. It’s ridiculous how big and small brands try to trick consumers into thinking they can buy themselves out of the climate crisis. On top of it, most of them by lying about what the environmental cost of their products truly is. So, as we are about to close off 2019, Our Chief Operations and Sustainability Officer has gathered a list of what he found to be the harshest realities of ‘sustainable fashion’ in 2019, buckle up guys, this is gonna be a ride. * Each citation is numbered and in brackets (), you can find the source at the bottom of the page, or by clicking the underlined sentences. 1). Viscose IS NOT ECO-FRIENDLY! Viscose has been rebranded as a renewable, eco-friendly product, fully ignoring the inconvenient truth that the end product is not natural. Yes, the base used for the product is natural, such as wood pulp, bamboo, straw, or lavender. However, once the natural product is mixed carbon disulfide, the product is no longer natural. Carbon disulfide causes toxic degenerative brain disease and damages the sensory capacity of nerves (including those responsible for vision). Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and insanity, are also some of the other diseases that occur in viscose workers. The problem with viscose is not that it’s not safe to wear, it’s the fact that the workers who make it and the surrounding environment suffer immensely. Just consider the fact that 30% of viscose is made from ancient or threatened forests.(1) In the case of Tencel, the textile invented to replace viscose, the word synthetic is very conveniently avoided in their marketing, though the production process is not that different than viscose. We don’t know the long term effects of the solvent used to make tencel, N-Methylmorpholine (which replaces the carbon disulfide in tencel production). We know very little about this chemical solvent, and it’s clean bill of health is only a default status due to lack of research. Obviously more research is needed, but that research needs to be funded, and obviously Lenzing, the company that produces tencel and historic viscose producer, doesn’t want to go through all that trouble considering their mortal history with viscose and its chemical solvent, carbon disulfide. (2) For more information on viscose you can follow this link https://goodonyou.eco/material-guide-viscose-really-better-environment/ For more information on the most resource intensive materials watch the investigation by Hassan Minhaj and the Patriot Act team: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGF3ObOBbac 2) Vegan leathers (or faux leather) are mostly just plastic or polyester. The most commonly used materials for synthetic leathers are polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU), which are plastic based materials.(3) We’ve also seen 100% polyester shoes branded as vegan and sustainable in The Netherlands, even though their product might take 200 years to decompose. Don’t buy into it. These type of companies are playing on our empathy for animals at the expense of the earth. Send us a message if you would like to know what brand it is. 3) Sustainable animal leather is not a thing. It takes way to much water to process to ever be sustainable. As the article, “Water Management in Leather Industry”, published in the Journal of Scientific & Industrial Research states, “Nearly 40-45 L/KG of raw hide or skin is used by tanneries for processing finished leathers. With annual raw-hide or skin processing of the order of 690,000 tones, total water requirements for the industry approximate to 30 billion litres. Such huge volume of water, used in leather processing, poses two problems, availability of water in the required quantity and the treatment of waste water thus generated, as almost the entire quantity of water used in processing is let out as waste water. Apart from pollution load, the huge quantities of discharge require large investments on waste water treatment plants”.(4) If you would like to know more about leather tanneries, we recommend starting by watching the following documentary report by Deutsche Welle “Luxury: Behind the mirror of high-end fashion | DW Documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7hzomuDEIk 4) Be weary of Greenwashing Which brings us to our next point. There are now several companies claiming to be able to make leather from plants. The bottom line is that we if you can’t see specific details on the manufacturing process on the company’s website, don’t buy it. If they can’t say anything on the specificities of the production process, don’t purchase. Here’s a solid example. Recently, a new textile appeared claiming to be the sustainable solution to leather problem, Piñatex. However, it didn’t take much research to notice that they don’t actually give out any explanations of their manufacturing process in a detailed manner. On the Piñatex website, the owner says Piñatex is made using pineapple leaves, polyactic acid, and petroleum based acid. Polyactic acid is a type of polyester that can be recycled, but it is only compostable under industrial conditions. This, combined with the fact that petroleum resin are used in the finishing of Piñatex, means that the product is not biodegradable. (5) The confusing thing is that there are fabrics made from actual pineapple, in which the pineapple doesn’t need a chemical bath to become a textile. So when Piñatex puts photos of raw pineapple fibre on their website, it is highly misleading, since their product is not a cellulosic fibre, such as cotton, hemp and jute. Clearly, going from cloth to a leather like texture has more chemicals and treatment processes that are not being revealed. 5). The fact that its recycled does not make it sustainable. For example, you might buy a piece of clothing made of recycled plastic or polyester. Unless during every wash you use a guppy bag, every time you wash that piece of clothing millions of micro-plastics are going to be released by your clothing, which in turn your washing machine can’t filter, meaning they end up in the ocean, which means fish eat them, and we eventually do to. It is not enough for the intention to be good, the result needs to be good as well. If we don’t approach the climate crisis like this we will keep making irreversible mistakes, which will only make the problem worse. 6). There are huge differences in the resources it takes to process each wool type Wool is a good alternative, however we need to be mindful of how certain wool types are harvested (so the treatment of the animals) and how much water is needed in its processing. For example, sheeps wool has between 9.5- 27% grease, meaning it requires a lot of water and chemicals to wash it so that it is wearable (less itchy, etc). Cashmere wool has between 5-7.2% of grease, much less than wool, but still twice as much grease as alpaca fibre, which has between 2.8-3.9% grease before treatment.(7) So there is also a gigantic difference in the amount of energy it takes to treat different types of wool. 7) Buying second hand is a good idea, as long as you don’t do it excessively. We need to be mindful of the compositions we are buying and their washing requirements. So, two thing to keep in mind are that consumerism is harmful to our earth, regardless of its form. The greater the market for second hand clothes, the more certain people will keep consuming thinking that they are of the hook because they can just sell their clothes (at least no landfill right?). The second thing to keep in mind is that a lot of the second hand clothes out there are acrylic compositions, so always wash them carefully using a guppy bag.(8) The Guppyfriend washing bag reduces fiber loss during washing in two ways: 1. The Guppyfriend Washing Bag reduces the amount of breaking fibers significantly. The Fraunhofer Institute UMSICHT has confirmed an average amount of a) 79% for partly synthetic clothes, and b) 86% from completely synthetic textiles. The lifetime of the apparel is extended. 2. Fibrous residues and lints caused by washing are retained by the Guppyfriend Washing Bag and therefore do not pollute the wastewater. The determined fiber retention capacity in all test was above 90%, – mostly close to 100%. Nanoparticles, like production residues, often found on cheaper textiles can not be hold back by the Guppyfriend Washing Bag. 8). Design is a large part of trying to engage in better wardrobe consumption. What we mean is, we don’t need more designers trying to set fashion trends that will eventually fade. We need to buy clothes that we are going to want to wear in 20, 30 years. Similarly, buying an item that is clearly a hype, does not guarantee you’ll use it for 30 years. Choose timeless pieces that you know you’ll always love and use. A lot of times our designs are simple, but all of that is for a reason. It’s to make them combinable, casual, and timeless. We want to make clothes that you wear in your every day life, that can last as long as possible. And here is where consumers come in. 9). We can’t buy ourselves out of the climate crisis. Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. As consumers we need to more mindful in our consumption practices and realise that we can’t buy ourselves out of the climate crisis. Even if a product was produced using the least amount of resources possible, we need to buy only what we need, we should not buy just because we have the financial capacity to do so. Similarly, we need to take care of our clothing. Don’t dry it in sunlight, don’t use a dryer, and wash as little as possible. Mend when torn, reuse once worn. Environmental scientist are warning that we’re less than 12 years away from being unable to reverse the effects of climate change. If we don’t, we’ll be living in a world plagued by droughts and floods, which will result in water wars and refugee crises all over the world. We need mobilisation on a world scale, not just from private companies, also from governments, and us, the people. Sources: 1. McCullough, D G. “Deforestation for Fashion: Getting Unsustainable Fabrics out of the Closet.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, April 25, 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/zara-h-m-fashion-sustainable-forests-logging-fabric. 2. Blanc, Paul David. Fake Silk: the Lethal History of Viscose Rayon. New Haven: University Press, 2016. 3. Petter, Olivia. “Why ‘Vegan Leather’ Is Not as Environmentally Friendly as You Think.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, November 1, 2019. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/vegan-leather-real-fake-pvc-sustainable-sustainability-fashion-ethics-a9060911.html. 4. Sundar, J, R Ramesh, PS Rao, P Saravanan, B Sridharnath, and C Muralidharan. “Water Management in Leather Industry.” Journal of Scientific & Industrial Research 60 (June 2001): 443–50. 5. “FAQs.” Piñatex. Accessed December 4, 2019. https://www.ananas-anam.com/faqs/. 6. Boucher, J. and Friot D. (2017). Primary Microplastics in the Oceans: A Global Evaluation of Sources. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. 43pp. 7. “Why Alpaca.” Why Alpaca. Grupo Inca . Accessed December 4, 2019. http://www.whyalpaca.com/. 8. “Häufig Gestellte Fragen – FAQ – Fragen & Antworten – Q&A.” Guppyfriend Shop | Europe | Global. Accessed December 4, 2019. https://en.guppyfriend.com/pages/haeufig-gestellte-fragen-faq-fragen-und-antworten-q-a. 9. Watts, Jonathan. “We Have 12 Years to Limit Climate Change Catastrophe, Warns UN.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, October 8, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report.