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Clothes are a necessity and for many a way of expressing ourselves and boosting confidence, yet the process of making them is extremely wasteful and polluting. The production of these textiles itself, whether they’re synthetic or natural, is also causing harm.

Kay Politowicz, Professor of Textile Design at the University of the Arts in London, believes that “The increasing consumption of textiles for clothing is causing the biggest textiles impact on the environment” . The fashion industry depends on oil and gas and consumes enormous amounts of water, contributing to vast mountains of waste.

The life cycle of clothes we wear and buy is something most of us take for granted – right from the supply chain as to who makes them, where and how and where they end up after use. The video below from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation explains the problems caused by fast fashion and explores what we can do to help.


“Plastic from a variety of products –  carpet, clothing, packaging – are showing up in our tap and bottled water and even our beer. “

What are the implications of fast fashion?

  • 100 billion garments are produced every year globally
  • The average number of ‘wears’ per garment a person owns is just 4
  • The fashion industry is the fifth most polluting in the world
  • 100 million tonnes of non-renewables are used every year in the fashion industry globally
  • 65% of clothes use polyester – and this contains micro plastics, which are shed when clothes are washed
  • Half a million tonnes – equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles – of plastic microfibers from washing garments ends up in the ocean every year on average, which in turn enters the food chain

So what can you do to help?

  • Studies have shown that Charity shops reduce the UK’s Carbon Footprint by 3.7 million tonnes a year. So if you’re doing a wardrobe clear out, use Traid who offer a free home collection service. Similarly you can donate to charity shops or use the recycle services from retailers, such as John Lewis and M&S.
  • Check out Fashion Revolution’s ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ social media campaign. Fashion Revolution asks brands to be more transparent about their supply chain and asks vital questions such as; ‘How much are workers along the supply chain paid?’ You can sign up to their manifesto on their website.
  • Check out Sustainability Savvy’s  7 Steps to building a More Sustainable Wardrobe.
  • Always ask yourself these 10 questions before you make a purchase.
  • Wash your clothes at lower temperatures.

Other Resources

Greenpeace’s high-profile campaign “Dirty Laundry,” which has called on some of the largest clothing brands to commit to eliminating hazardous chemicals in their supply chains, has spurred Adidas to begin talks with rivals Nike and Puma (among others) to establish an industry-wide initiative to develop an integrated chemical management program.

The recent Fashion Futures project at Britain’s Forum for the Future envisioned what fashion will be like in the year 2025, in conjunction with their call for a more sustainable fashion industry

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