The Fashion Industry – A possible threat to Sustainable Development?

By Maria Wehbe & Mohammad Hashisho

Picture taken from Art&Education

            We all know what sustainability is. It basically means living in a maintainable way. It stresses on the fact that we should be avoiding the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance in sectors that ultimately require sustainability, some of which are the economy, society and environment. However, even though we know that sustainability is a must if we wish to preserve our earth and avoid scarcity, there are many factors that contribute in putting sustainability at risk, without us even knowing. What is shocking is that a lot of sectors are putting a strain on sustainable development, ones that we would have never even considered before, one of which is the fashion industry. The unfortunate truth is that the fashion industry’s carbon footprint is a major contributor to global warming, and so it is necessary to underline how dangerous the carbon emission of this industry actually  is..

            Who would have thought that wearing our favorite pair of shoes or our comfiest sweatpants would mean that we were partaking in the emission of an extra-load of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? As consumers continue to purchase more and more products, the fashion industry will be incentivized to meet the demand and in turn disregard environmental implications that their unsustainable production methods have..

Now, we all must have known that the fashion industry had to be a polluter to some extent, yet we chose to ignore this fact as our comfort and pleasure seemed more important. We would rather buy the trendiest jeans and the coolest sneakers, without any regard to the amount of work and waste that comes along with it. We have all done this, none of us are guilt-free, yet upon writing this article, we really did have a change of heart and we really do realize how extreme the situation has become.

According, to the 2015 Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report, this industry was accountable for emitting 1.7 billion tons of carbon that year. Basically, it created nearly 5% of artificial CO2 emissions in 2015. Although this number does seem quite insignificant, it is important to remember how many sectors and industries contribute to these carbon releases (the tourism sector, the hospitality sector, etc.) and the fact that an industry that could avoid this spread contributed to the release of 5%,  is a major cause for concern. It is insane how globalization has led to the worldwide spread of trends, otherwise the fashion industry would have had such an adverse effect on the environment. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the annual global emissions, which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. It’s best you read that sentence again so you can truly understand how dire the situation actually is. . In fact, according to a report conducted by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “If the fashion sector continues on its current trajectory, that share of the carbon budget could jump to 26% by 2050.” Moreover, the fashion industry is known to be the second-largest consumer of water worldwide. Approximately 3000 liters of water are needed to produce one single cotton shirt. This amount of water is enough for one person to consume eight cups of water a day, for ten years. Can you imagine? So many people are dying of thirst, yet one single t-shirt that we’d only wear a couple of times a year needs more water than them? Is this what reality has come to be?

What is reassuring, though, is that there has been a shift in the consumer’s way of thinking, as sustainability is becoming more and more important to customers, who do take it into consideration while purchasing. In fact, according to the 2019 Pulse of the Fashion Industry report, 38% of consumers switched from their preferred brand to another that stands for positive environmental and social practices in fashion. Research has shown that raising awareness does have an impact on the consumer, as they are more prone to switching to brands they trust, brands that are not contributing to resource scarcity, global warming nor climate change.

            What can be deduced from all of this is that raising awareness and educating the consumer on proper practices is the ideal way of trying to reduce the fashion industry’s contribution to the global emission of carbon dioxide, water scarcity and depletion of many other resources. Simply substituting one store we go to for another is one of the many ways that each and every one of us can contribute to protecting the earth for as long as possible.  There are so many luxuries that we can leave behind, for the sake of our planet, our home. Now more than ever, it is important that we do not remain selfish and partake in behavior that puts a strain on our livelihood.

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