Fashion And The Environment: A Guide To Sustainability And The Fashion Industry

Everybody, including their kids know when a big sale is about to begin at any given time at any given retail store on any given day. Yes, we went on about it, but the reality is that whenever there is a sale on clothes, especially designer clothes there will be a flood of customers. This begs the question, do they actually know what they are buying and if so, do they really care?

You see, when it comes to fashion, there is a dirty secret that the industry does not really want the uninformed potential customer to know about. Is it that thousands of litres have been used to grow the cotton used to create that shirt? Or is it that the process of making polyester involves harsh chemicals that can damage the environment? Or is it that environmental protection standards were not followed in the manufacturing process of those denim jeans?

We will discuss some of the ways in which the fashion industry hides the real process of making those popular clothes and also some ways how we as humans can help out the environment in a positive way with our fashion pieces. Let’s take a look.

The Raw Materials


Did you that polyester is made when a petroleum by-product, carboxyl acid, and alcohol are mixed to for a compound called ester? This then starts a process called polymerization and results in long fibers being stretched to five times their original length. These fibers are extremely strong and is used in the manufacturing process of clothing.

Not only is there actually petroleum in polyester but the process to obtain these raw materials are harmful to the environment.  Harsh chemicals are also used which for some people can be an irritant to their skin, leaving a rash or constant itching. 

Because polyester is not biodegradable, your discarded shirt or pants will not decompose up until 200 years. This is definitely not a positive step in a clean environment.


The process to grow the cotton plant involves the use of more than 10,000 litres of water to yield about 1 kilogram of raw cotton. Also, many clothing manufacturers source their cotton from not so environmentally friendly places which do not use the best business practices. 

Investigations have revealed some cotton growers use child labour which pays extremely low amounts of pay and also sometimes free adult labour. The children are often from impoverished families and usually their parents force them to begin work at an early age. Growers are more than willing to use this for of labour if that means that they can get away with paying a decent wage.

When it comes to the free labour, the reasons are sometimes not that obvious. Sure, the grower will always want to maximize profits, but at the same time many countries have state controls which will pick and choose who can work in specific industries. Many countries, especially in under developed nations will us prisoners as free labour in many industries as well as in cotton growing.


Who doesn’t like the soft natural material called wool. There is a reason why clothing made from mostly wool will cost more than say, polyester. Wool is from sheep, which will need to have its luscious wool trimmed at least once per year. This is a huge benefit to both the sheep and the farm. The sheep will get overheated in the warm months if this does not happen and the farm is happy because they have one of the most sought after natural fibers in the fashion world.

Some farmers will keep their sheep in awful and dirty conditions, which will tend to be for the purposes of having a larger profit margin. Not knowing that having a clean farm for the sheep is for the well being of the animal and can be a positive point to speak about to current and potential manufacturers.


Large fashion companies are beginning to develop strategies on how they can be more environmental in the entire production process, from the ground to your closet. Strategies include vetting farmers and making sure that they comply with international environmental standards, implementing a more environmentally cost efficient manufacturing process, and also staying away from single packaging such as plastic bags.

Doing Your Part

Being more environmentally friendly with your fashion does not mean to stop buying new clothes and wear what you already have forever. On the contrary, you can keep on shopping, but to really make a difference, you will need to cut your trips to the mall down. Do your research before deciding to buy a certain pice, which can often times reveal both positive and negative information. Also, you can choose to only buy second hand, which is a great choice to get the entire life out of an article of clothing and can be light on your wallet.

Water is the key to life and we should always find ways on how we can reduce wasting this precious resource. When washing your clothes, decide if you really need to wash that garment. Denim jeans are an example of a garment that does not need to be washed every week, especially if you are not sweating while you wear them.

Every two week wash is perfectly fine. Also, cut beck your usage with bringing your clothes to the dry cleaners, because many of them just tend to still wash your brought in clothes but just in a much larger washing machine.

Doing your research before hand is a great way how you can make more informed decisions when it comes to being more environmentally friendly with your clothing.

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