Is The Mass Market And Plastic Evil? 6 Myths About Fashion And Ecology

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Is The Mass Market And Plastic Evil? 6 Myths About Fashion And Ecology
Is The Mass Market And Plastic Evil? 6 Myths About Fashion And Ecology
Video: Is The Mass Market And Plastic Evil? 6 Myths About Fashion And Ecology
Video: Is fast fashion destroying our environment? 2023, February
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Talk about sustainable fashion is not going to subside. In 2017, the opinion spread on the Internet that the production of clothing occupies an unrepentant second line in the ranking of the most polluting industries. Who first launched this duck is not exactly clear, but it did become very popular - so much so that The New York Times issued a rebuttal with the headline "The biggest fake of the fashion world." Yes, the horror story turned out to be a fiction, but plausible - and the fact that so many people believed in it is indicative: it turns out that there is no need to prove the harm to the fashion industry - it seems obvious.

It is generally accepted that more thoughtful consumer habits can solve problems, but they rather simply shift the responsibility from companies to the buyer: without logical measures at the legislative level, fashion will continue to pollute nature. Moreover, these very habits are often no more than popular misconceptions or marketing gimmicks. Here are six popular fashion and environmental myths.

Text: Anton Danilov, author of the telegram channel "Profeminism"

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Cotton items are safe for nature - even better if the cotton is organic

This statement seems to be true, but only if we consider only one aspect of sustainability - the rate of decomposition of cotton items. However, other aspects of the problem, such as production and transportation costs, must not be overlooked. For example, cotton plantations consume a large amount of completely non-environmentally friendly pesticides: according to a 2017 report, this crop accounts for a quarter of all agricultural chemicals. In addition, industrial cotton production requires colossal amounts of water. It takes about 2,700 liters of water to create one T-shirt - this figure is comparable to the volume of water in a swimming pool suitable for sports competitions. The Aral Sea, located on the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, has almost dried up today for this very reason: in the 50s, and then in the post-Soviet period, the local arid soil was irrigated with lake water, just to grow cotton.

It seems that organic cotton can be substituted for regular cotton. It is grown from non-genetically modified varieties without the use of pesticides and other synthetic fertilizers: it is believed that such cotton does not impoverish the soil, and its production does not harm nature (or less harm). Keep in mind, however, that organic cotton yields less than regular cotton - so organic cotton needs more room to get the same amount of fiber from both crops. This increases the cultivated area, which certainly cannot be called an environmentally friendly measure: a third of the total land area is already used for agriculture. In addition, it is believed that the production of organic cotton requires about two and a half times more water than usual, while in the main countries - suppliers of crops (for example, in India) the lack of fresh water is already a rather serious environmental problem.

As for the fear of genetically modified products, it is primarily fueled by marketing: the harm of GMOs has not been proven, and only the economy of small farms can really suffer from the cultivation of modified crops. At the same time, the quality of organic cotton is lower than that of regular cotton. In addition, natural fertilizers can harm the environment more than artificial ones, according to a 2010 study. Therefore, it is too early to consider organic cotton as an unconditional alternative to conventional cotton.

Keep in mind that the label “organic cotton” can be a marketing gimmick, because it is not always possible to establish the real origin of the fabric. The United States, Great Britain, Germany and Japan have a strict control system, but many states have yet to implement it.The environmental friendliness of the production of any cotton should be considered on a case-by-case basis, and organic - if it really is - should have a special label.

Natural fur is better than artificial / artificial fur is better than natural

The fur debate takes place every year. Supporters of the natural insist on the fact that the skin of an animal is easily decomposed in nature, the advocates of the artificial - on the fact that the production of fur is unethical in relation to animals. But the truth is that neither material can be considered 100 percent sustainable.

Natural fur is obtained from fur farms, which in themselves threaten the environment. A 2011 study cites the following figures: one kilogram of mink fur is 11 killed animals, 563 kilograms of food for them throughout their life and 110 kilograms of carbon dioxide, which are released into the atmosphere during the entire period of their keeping. In addition, the inner side of the resulting material is treated with chemicals to keep it soft - this process can hardly be called environmentally friendly due to the large amount of waste. The fur itself is also processed to keep it in shape, although this really does not prevent it from decomposing later.

Faux fur is obtained from polyester, a petroleum product. Its extraction, transportation and, in fact, its transformation into fabric are extremely dirty industries, they cause more damage to the planet than any other. And although cotton is still the champion in water consumption, polyester is also demanding in this matter: one ton of synthetic material takes 71 thousand cubic meters of water. To sew a faux fur coat, it is imperative to dye the material. This is how the residues of special dispersed dyes get from textile factories into wastewater. In addition, faux fur coats are much cheaper than their natural counterparts, and therefore people are often less conscious of such purchases. Once in a landfill, these things decompose very slowly: it takes nature from 20 to 200 years to recycle polyester - ten times longer than things made from natural fabrics.

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The leather remains from meat production, and therefore is ethical and environmentally friendly

The rejection of fur in the collections of large brands - both democratic and luxury - is a steady trend: over the past year and a half, it has been withdrawn from the collections of Gucci, Versace, Michael Kors, Prada and many others. Following them, buyers refuse from natural fur coats. But when it comes to natural leather, many do not see a problem, as they consider it a by-product of animal husbandry. This really happens in the case of cheap raw materials, however, the production of expensive leather - for example, calf or lamb - is always an end in itself.

At the same time, farms on which animals are raised on the skin harm nature as much as those that are engaged in fur. To make the leather soft and durable, it is tanned, for which they use primarily chromium salts, some of which are poisonous. Large enterprises with a large budget can afford systems that reduce the toxicity of these salts, or switch to alternative methods of tanning, for example, using titanium compounds. Smaller ones do not pay attention to this - it is easier and cheaper to use chrome, and the leather looks good after processing. In general, few people think about the ingress of products into wastewater. However, although leather and fur production significantly pollutes the aquatic environment, there is still insufficient research on its negative impact on the human body.

The cheapness of leather goods is forcing the growing middle class to buy more and more of them: The Guardian reports that in six years time, 430 million cows will have to be killed annually to meet people's needs for leather goods.

Recycled polyester is a panacea for all plastic problems

Polyester decomposes very slowly, and recycling is designed to solve this problem.Polyethylene terephthalate (PET, PET) is melted and then re-spun into threads - this is how a recycled raw material called rPET is obtained. Also, it can be obtained from regular trash, because, in essence, both a polyester T-shirt and a plastic bottle are made of the same material. This helps prevent environmental pollution, which has already become catastrophic: according to the Ocean Conservancy, eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year, and if this continues, then by 2050 there will be more garbage in the water bodies of the planet than fish.

Recycling of plastic, however, remains the same energy-intensive process as its production. And it also does not solve a very important problem of synthetic fabrics - microplastics, which are separated with each wash. For example, fleece jackets emit roughly 1.7 grams of microplastic per wash alone - and the older the garment, the more plastic is sent to the ocean. There, it enters the fish organism with food, and then, moving up the food chain, into the body of animals and humans (its effect on our body is still poorly understood). To make a T-shirt or, say, a pair of sneakers from plastic bottles, they must be crushed, also releasing microplastics. Environmental journalist Lee Messinger concludes in an article on The Guardian that crushing a bottle into a million parts can be even more harmful than choosing not to do anything with it.

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Canvas bags are definitely better than plastic bags

It is believed that the bags that are given out in supermarkets at every checkout are an absolute evil, because this is a disposable plastic that will go to the landfill in half an hour. To replace them, many buy string bags or roomy canvas bags: it seems that if a thing is made of natural materials and is used more than once, then the harm to the planet from it is less than from disposable counterparts. However, not everything is so simple: in a 2018 study that assessed the impact of food bags and bags on nature, it was plastic that turned out to be the safest option.

Bags made of different materials and woven bags were compared according to a set of signs: how much their production changes the climate, the ozone layer, pollutes water and harms human health. True, the Danish Ministry of the Environment and Food, which investigated this issue, did not take into account an important component of the plastic problem - the huge amount of garbage already accumulated in the oceans. It is also important that the scientists compared exactly the one-time use of two bags.

Disposable bags from supermarkets are so-called low density polyethylene bags, or LDPE (low density polyethylene bags). The Quartz provides a summary table that calculates how many times different grocery bags should be used in order for their environmental damage to be as low as LDPE. Organic cotton is the champion: a canvas bag needs to be used about twenty thousand times to be as environmentally friendly as a plastic bag. By the way, when asked how to properly dispose of disposable plastic, the Danish study takes the side of incineration.

Refusal from the mass market will solve the problem

The main culprit of the ecological catastrophe provoked by fashion is the mass market: things from democratic stores are inexpensive and do not last long. The landfill is the fate of 95 percent of all things produced - Stella McCartney says this in an interview with WWD (according to other sources - 85 percent). At the same time, the British designer reminds: blaming fast fashion for everything is wrong. “To create a thing that meets all eco-criteria, you need to spend a lot of money. The fashion industry does not yet have clear guidelines or a single policy in this regard, so the costs are passed on to enthusiasts like me. Nobody encourages me from the government.I may be charged an additional 30% duty when I introduce eco-products to the United States. It turns out that I am even punished for trying to fix the situation in the fashion business,”she says.

Many fast fashion brands today are launching eco-initiatives with specific plans and timelines. For example, H&M, one of the leaders in the low-cost clothing segment, has created a special subsection on the official website, where it talks about its environmental initiatives. The Swedish corporation has also created the H&M Foundation, which supports initiatives in this area and seeks the best ways to recycle materials. By 2030, the company wants to use only recycled or environmentally friendly materials, and by 2040 - to reduce its impact on nature to zero and become one hundred percent environmentally friendly. Hannah Hollin, manager of sustainable development for the H&M Group in China, believes that lower production volumes will not solve the problem right now. “We can reduce the volume we produce [now], but then 98 percent of the less transparent and less sustainable brands will take our place - they will make money. We have a role to play in the future - and we have to drive other non-transparent companies out of business."

Could this business be environmentally friendly? Rather yes than no. The Huffington Post talks about fashion brands that build business quickly and at the same time rely on the laws of sustainable development (one of which is to meet all the existing needs of the population; the momentary abandonment of fast fashion will definitely deprive a huge number of people of affordable clothing). At the same time, inexpensive things can be of the same good quality as luxury, - this was proved by a scientist from the University of Leeds, Mark Sumner. International consulting company McKinsey offers a specific list of measures that will allow fast fashion to become environmentally friendly, including the ease of recycling clothes from any fabric, investing in new ones, increasing consumer culture and many other ways. Although experts admit that they can only solve part of the problems, because any fashion - both expensive and cheap - is still environmentally dirty.

PHOTOS: Carlota guerrero

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