If you’re interested in fashion and sustainability, this is the blog for you! You’ll learn the hard facts as well as ways to use your voice and your actions to preserve our precious environment through what you wear.
This guest blog was written by Marisol’s intern, Rohshaye Lincoln.
The bombshell of COVID-19 tested and challenged us in every way; but, I’d also like to believe we used this time to examine our relationships with ourselves, each other, and the environment. And that in doing so, we made important discoveries about fashion and our “old normal” when it comes to buying and dressing.
NPR released an article that shook one of the foundations of an “old normal” – the recycling industry. We’re now aware this industry is one big sham created by the very powers responsible for our environmental issues. Large oil and gas companies deemed recycling too expensive, resulting in the startling statistic that less than 10% of our plastic is actually recycled. YIKES!
In this “new normal” of masks and social distancing, we’ve had to adapt to isolation as well as economic hardship. And while the latter looks different for everyone, there’s been a shared experience of sacrifice. We are forced to determine what in our lives are essential vs. what we thought was essential. In this process, our role as consumers has weakened, but so has the producer.
Evidence of this weakening can be seen during China’s initial lockdown, when factories closed, practically decimating our domestic clothing industry, ensuring a notable decline in the stocking of household brands such as Nike, Adidas and Levi’s (just to name a few). China is the US’s largest supplier of imported apparel and footwear, as well as the world’s largest producer of polyester fibers, a type of plastic used to make clothes for relatively cheap.
COVID-19 allowed us to recognize the impact our dollar has on the clothing industry and how these factories affect the American apparel industry. In addition to what the pandemic has brought to light, there’s been a parallel push toward sustainability and calls for the elimination (or at the very least restriction) of fast fashion. We know that at least 10% of the world’s annual carbon emissions are directly linked to the clothing industry (also YIKES!). Furthermore, 17,030,000 tons of all home & business waste is textile based, making it the 2nd leading polluting industry in the world in 2019. According to The Council of Fashion Designers of America usage of polyester fabrics has increased in the textile industry to the point “that 65% (that’s 11,069,500 tons) of all fibres used are made from a synthetic material and around 98% (16,689,400 tons) of all future fibre growth is expected to be in synthetic fibres. Read this article to understand exactly why synthetics are such a big problem with regard to our sustainability efforts.
So how do we reclaim our power in the narrative of sustainability and what we choose to buy & wear?
Marisol Colette, of Sol Reflection and I were talking about the recycling industry when she shared a perspective I’d not previously considered. She loves the idea of recycling in theory, but the industry uses marketing to place the onus on the individual vs. the corporate powers responsible for sustainability. This is dangerous because it leaves you feeling as though the weight of a world’s problems rests on your shoulders. Similarly, we’ve been taught making fashion sustainable is our burden to bear; but, our desire to even broach the topic of sustainability already demonstrates our deep commitment. In order to reclaim our personal power we need to continue dedicating our efforts toward sustainability as well as hold corporations accountable (see below for how to do this).
With the start of the new year, I personally have made the decision to refrain from buying any clothing made in China. This is a choice you can make too. And, since we know that we alone can’t solve the issue of sustainability in the fashion industry, I encourage you to participate in making change on a national or global scale by signing petitions such as this one as well as follow sites committed to reforming the clothing industry. You can also keep up with Marisol’s Facebook and Instagram pages to hear more about her personal sustainability, ethics and values practices.
Individually, this task can seem quite lofty; but collectively, we have a strong chance of correcting the harmful practices the clothing industry has created. So thank you for doing your part and for putting pressure on companies to do theirs!