Is sustainability the new black?

Is sustainability the new black?
Is sustainability the new black?

Fashion – in particular fast fashion – is regularly cited as one of the most polluting industries in the world. It is estimated that the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of  global carbon emissions – above travel & tourism with around 8%. Early in 2018, the UNFCCC estimated that emissions from the fashion sector were likely to rise by more than 60% by 2030 if major steps were not taken towards a more sustainable industry.

Fast fashion is bad news for the environment on all fronts. With consumer demand for new fashion running very high, the pressure to keep costs low & production levels high means environmental corners are more likely to be cut.

Criticisms of fast fashion include its negative environmental impact, such as water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals and increasing levels of waste. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally, after agriculture.

Another problem created by disposable fashion in particular is the use of polyester. It has fast become the most popular fabric, and is, as we all know, also a derivative made from petrochemicals. When polyester garments are washed in domestic machines, they shed microfibres which add substantially to the increasing levels of plastic in our oceans. On the other hand the cultivation of cotton requires high levels of water and in many cases pesticides to prevent crop failure, Most cotton grown is now genetically modified to be resistant to pests – but this can also lead to other problems, such as the eradication of other plants and animals due to the modified crops. The degradation of soils through the pesticides used has made them less fortified and more exposed to flooding or other extreme weather conditions in countries such as India, where thousands of cotton farmers have committed suicide as a consequence of the loss of crops.

People buy more and more clothes, and don’t keep them as long as they used to, leading to further waste, Three-quarters of Britons throw away unwanted clothing, rather than donating or recycling it. Our Considerate partners at WRAP launched a site called LoveYourClothes to help inspire and influence consumers to make small conscious changes to reduce the impact of their clothing on the environment.

In the news recently was a report from UK MPs, who stated that clothing brands and retailers should pay one penny on every garment they sell to fund a recycling scheme to deal with the large amounts of waste this fast fashion creates.

The good news is that awareness is spreading and there is great momentum for change.

Stella McCartney has long been an advocate for sustainable fashion. Her ‘Stella’ label was the first luxury brand not to use fur or leather. As she says – “I know people thought I was nuts—how can you go into the fashion industry and not use leather?……. But I think what’s amazing is that I started in one place, but now the environment, what we eat, how we conduct ourselves, and how we consume, those links have been made.” At the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference In December of last year, Stella launched the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action – by signing up, brands are committing to report their emissions every year and achieve a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Vivienne Westwood is another long-time vocal supporter of sustainable fashion. At her recent London Fashion Week show, she used her stage as a platform to publicise her views on climate change. Protestors took to the stage as part of the show to encourage everyone to buy less. A few years ago Vivienne stated the immortal words: ‘Buy Less, Choose well, Make it last’, making it part of her brand.

Certified organic cotton benefits both the cotton producers and the environment – avoiding pesticide use and improving workers rights and conditions. More and more designers and retailers are using more organic cotton in their products. Fibres from recycled plastic are also being integrated – both Stella McCartney & Adidas have collaborated with Parley for the Oceans to create products made from recycled plastic retrieved from oceans and rivers.

As hoteliers we can embrace some of the lessons learned by the fashion industry – incorporating textiles made from organic cotton or recycled materials – such as those offered by our Considerate suppliers Fine Bedding Company & 3SIXTY. It is also worth looking in to sustainably sourced uniforms – RoomMate Hotels in Spain recently launched staff uniforms made of 100% recycled materials, in conjunction with EcoAlf.

Following the impact of shows such as ‘Blue Planet’, which increased public awareness of the damage plastic pollution is causing, BBC Earth launched their own sustainable fashion range in conjunction with the ethical clothing brand Mother of Pearl – they have released a video highlighting the motivation behind the campaign.

As ‘eco-fashion’ becomes more and more mainstream, the word spreads and as consumers our actions are influenced. This growth in sustainable fashion is definitely an important part of the struggle to combat climate change – and should encourage spending habits in other areas. The sustainable fashion revolution further highlights how luxury and sustainability go hand in hand. #makesustainabilitysexy.

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