Environment and Ethics in the Fashion Industry

Environmental issues are extremely important in today’s society. Recycling, conserving water, and saving energy are all great ways to be conscious, but the fashion industry- on a manufacturing and consumer based level- has a major impact on the environment as well. Clothing production and certain fabrics have damaging effects on the environment; the industry is the “second biggest consumer of water and is responsible for 8-10 percent of global carbon emissions” (UN Environment). Additionally, fabrics such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon release plastic into oceans, which is eventually consumed by living things.

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With the rise of sustainable companies like The Little Market, Vitamin A Swim, Outdoor Voices, and Patagonia, the controversy and conversation surrounding the ethics of clothing companies has increased. The United Nations Environmental Assembly recently launched the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion in order to encourage a more ethical and sustainable industry. Other agencies have also taken action by creating programs such as Blue Fashion and The Ethical Fashion Initiative, which promote sustainable production of clothing.

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Carbon emissions, water consumption, and materials used to produce clothing are not the only issues rooted in non-sustainability. The fashion industry can provide jobs for artisans and farmers. Providing these opportunities to victims of violence, people living in marginalized communities and areas of poverty and hardship allows the individuals to develop a variety of skills. This is not only an opportunity for a job; it is an opportunity to create a new path. Ensuring safe work conditions and fair pay is also a major component of an ethical industry.

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Raising awareness of the impact that the fashion industry has on the environment will help advance the efforts toward producing and purchasing clothing in a conscious way. Consumers can make a difference by researching companies, production methods, and taking simple steps such as purchasing less but high quality clothing. By joining the sustainability movement, the fashion industry can help facilitate a healthier planet and empowerment for workers on a larger level.

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