Posted on September 04 2020
How sustainable can fashion be? Can it be sustainable at all? 100% sustainable fashion is almost impossible – and yet there are some things to consider in order to make your own consumption more sustainable.
The clothes we wear, the fashion we consume, is responsible for a tenth of the greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The effects are fuelled by fast-moving offers from manufacturers and fashion designers. But consumers also contribute to making "throwaway fashion" such a big problem.
The enormous range of sometimes very cheap clothing tempts consumers to have an overflowing wardrobe – full of items that are rarely, if ever, worn. Even teenagers succumb, spurred on by fashion influencers, to the buying frenzy in the branches of the big chains. This makes it difficult to reject the business model and reflect on the effects of "fast fashion".
The fashion industry accounts for around 10% of global CO2 emissions and almost 20% of wastewater. The industry's energy consumption is higher than for aviation and shipping combined!
Long supply chains, enormous consumption of resources
After all, the clothes we wear come to us from the production of the materials, through processing, to the sale through very complex and long supply chains. And even if we dispose of them or the retail trade gets rid of yesterday's trends, garments again travel long distances.
To illustrate the consequences of this, it is worth remembering that a kilo of cotton is needed for a single pair of jeans. This one kilo requires between 7'500 and 10'000 litres of water. That is equivalent to the drinking water requirements of one person for about 10 years! Then there are the processes for dyeing and bleaching.
Certified articles and BioCouture
Consumers don't have to give up their jeans completely, but a look at the label can help. Certified products that comply with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) are still not perfect, but they help customers choose less stressful products.
Even more problematic than cotton are synthetic garments. Two thirds of the clothes we wear contain polyester. About 70 million (!) barrels of oil are consumed annually for this.
However, this popular material, because it is easy to care for, is also durable – so durable that microfibres and microplastics are released not only when the material is recycled, but even with every wash cycle.
In the meantime, innovative companies have taken up the topic and offer "BioCouture". Consumers also want fashion made of natural materials that are less harmful to the environment. And there are now also less polluting processes for processing and dyeing.
Consumers can do a lot themselves!
But the customer also has a responsibility. Because we can control the way we shop and consume fashion ourselves. Among the behaviours that consumers can influence are
- Buy more consciously online – and send less back
- Buy fewer products overall, but of better quality
- Wear the purchased clothes longer and more often
- Also integrate second hand fashion into your own wardrobe
Shopping less and more quality-consciously leads to a change in the way we deal with our own clothes and to a reflection on the mechanisms of the consumer society that make "fast fashion" an addictive factor. Getting rid of impulsive purchases, whether as a "reward" or as status symbols, is good for the soul and also for the wallet – and last but not least for the environment.
Wash less, throw away less
A change in the way we use the washing machine also lowers the CO2 footprint of our own wardrobe, reduces water consumption and the emission of microplastics. It is often enough to air worn clothes thoroughly, for example on a coat hanger on the balcony, to be able to wear them again or even twice. Those who have the opportunity to hang their clothes out to dry and thus do without the tumble dryer are already doing good.
And when it comes to throwing away clothes, many things can also be given a second life – on the one hand by mending and wearing them for longer, and on the other hand by giving them either to recycling or to institutions that collect second hand clothes for charity.
The necessary changes in favour of the planet and nature must of course be implemented by the big names in the fashion industry. But consumers have the opportunity to make these changes with their own choices.
From the very beginning, NIKIN has pursued the goal of fair and sustainable fashion as a still affordable alternative to fast fashion. Meanwhile most of our products are from guaranteed fair and sustainable production in Europe. Wherever possible, we work with more sustainable alternatives and never let up in our search for adequate producers, although this search is always very laborious. We have been able to convince many of our producers to introduce more sustainable production and materials. Our textile products are largely made of "sustainable organic cotton" and other sustainable materials such as recycled PET material or recycled cotton fibres.
To be honest, of course we are not perfect yet either. But we want to create awareness and show that there are other ways. We want to be a role model and encourage people to shop more consciously. Quality always comes before quantity.