TOPEKA (KSNT)– April 22 is Earth Day, and usually you’ll hear all kinds of news stories on how to recycle the right way, how to use less electricity, gas, etc. But this year, we wanted to introduce you to something some of us don’t think about a lot; fashion and the environment. How one piece of clothing, from the marketing to the production, is impacting our world.
Sustainable, eco-friendly and recyclable, all terms we hear often from companies trying to better the environment, including clothing companies. However, this might just be a new marketing tactic.
Natalie Krieger is a student at the University of Kansas. For one of her classes, she researched fast fashion and how companies portray themselves when it comes to the environment. Finding some brands don’t actually follow the message they are promoting. Fast fashion is a way for companies to make the latest trends at a cheap and fast pace while producing them in large quantities.
“Fast fashion is kind of a newer term,” Krieger said. “Companies have ramped up production to produce hundreds of pieces of new clothing for each season. So people just buy it, wear it for one time maybe, if not zero even. Then get rid of it.”
SustainYourStyle.org said the fashion industry is the second-largest polluter in the world. About 20% of industrial water pollution comes from clothing treatments and dyes. One point five trillion liters of water are used by the fashion industry each year, and 80 billion pieces of clothing are produced in a year. This increase might be due to the booming industry of “fast fashion.”
“Ethically source materials or materials good for the environment,” she said. “A good example is cotton. Everyone is like cotton is a good material, it’s breathable, it’s good. But when you look deeper into the supply chain and everything, you know that a lot of it comes from developing countries. But then the big companies use positive wording and imagery. Sustainability has just become a buzzword. Companies use that to throw that in without actual meaning behind it.”
So, how do we get better when it comes to clothing? Because it’s nearly impossible to not have fashion make an impact on the environment. Shannon O’Lear, an environmental studies professor at KU said it’s all about your own choices.
“Picking your priorities,” O’Lear said. “Because do you want organic clothing, or do you want fair trade clothing? Do you want low-cost clothing? I think we would all be running around pretty naked if we were going to go with clothing that didn’t have any impact. Because anything we do has an impact. I think as a smart consumer, we need to do a little better at understanding what our impact is.”
Once you get tired of those pieces of clothes, recycle them. Not in the bins, at donation stores as a way to expand the usage and keep it out of the landfill.
“Instead of throwing your stuff in the trash, if it’s still usable, why not give it to Goodwill?” O’Lear said. “Salvation Army, a clothing bank?”
As for being a conscious consumer, research can get you a long way to make sure you aren’t falling for those marketing terms that have no substance.