environment

The Co-Existence of Fashion and Sustainability

By Kelsey Davis of The Lux Authority

Perhaps you are a consumer, like many others worldwide, who is becoming more health, social, and environmentally conscious. Careful observation to these issues is crossing over into the fashion industry. You are aware of the waste in the landfills, pollutions in the air, animal cruelty, toxins and inhumane manufacturing. What exactly does this mean for fashion and does it matter? 

When buying fashion items, your money also supports the brand company behind the fashion. This includes how the product is made and with what materials. Fashion is a style, a certain look. Fashion is seen everywhere, like schools, malls, in movies, on faces, and in magazines. It includes clothing, furniture, accessories and textiles. How does fashion and sustainability co-exist? 

Sustainabilityis when resources are maintained at a certain level or rate. This can be environmental, social, or economical. The environmental sustainability is when the resources can be harvested at a certain level allowing continuous depletion without a negative cost to the environment. Environmental costs must consider harmful elements, such as the pesticides used in cotton fields. When cotton crops are sprayed, it contaminates the water system and kills bees. Socially, the company should consider the social well being of the country of product manufacture. Economic sustainability maintains a certain level of production at a decent cost, yielding a minimum of 2% growth each year. 

Fashion sustainability is also referred to as eco-fashion. Eco-fashion means all products, such as clothing and shoes are made and used in a way that has low or even no impact on people, the environment, and resources. If you want fashion sustainability, you must first begin with where your materials come from. Also, socially, you want to know that the items you are buying are not being manufactured in a sweatshop, but rather ethically made. 

Did you know that one of the issues with fashion is that the clothes are not breaking down when discarded? This adds to pollution and landfills. Therefore, when clothes are eco-friendly, they are a benefit to earth and life. The market for natural clothing materials is growing. 

Brands that manufacture clothes such as sportswear are venturing more into recycled and other unique materials, such as mushrooms and oranges. Fabric made of mushrooms and oranges? That is truly unique. Manufacturers have also found ways to make leather animal free. Others are making silk-like fabric based on spider web DNA. 

A variety of options exist now for manufacturers wanting better sustainability. More processing of materials offers the option of no chemicals or toxins during manufacturing. The materials may be plant-based or non-plant-based. How exactly is that possible? 

Outside of linen, cotton, soy and hemp, there are five other materials commonly used for fashion sustainability. They are tencel, seacell, chitosan, corkshell, and Qmilch. Tencel was first introduced in the 1980’s. It is made from eucalyptus trees and the fibers yield wrinkle-resistant, very soft and absorbent fabric. Seacell is a combination of wood cellulose and seaweed. Chitosan, also referred to as Chitin Fiber, is made from crustacean shells. It is mixed with viscose (a regenerated cellulose fiber) and the resulting fibers are very absorbent and bio-degradable. Furthermore, for those who appreciate the healthier side of fabrics, chitosan is also antibacterial and hypoallergenic. Corkshell is made from a certified cork powder. This by-product yields 50% higher thermal insulation. Qmilch is made from casein, a derivative of milk. This fabric is known to be biodegradable, antibacterial and anti-allergenic. It can be washed like cotton and drapes like silk. 

As a consumer who puts heavy emphasis on the life cycle and durability of fashion products, you have to research the entire production process of the product you are purchasing. You may think holding onto your clothes for years at a time is helping the environment. In a way, yes, you are. However, the clothes made with polyester, acrylic and nylon release plastic fibers while being washed. These thousands of fibers end up in the oceans and eaten by the fish. Scientific research shows these plastics are found in the fish eaten by consumers. This in turn also has adverse effects on human health. Do you still consider yourself environmentally conscious? 

More people now are starting to read labels on clothing. Be sure to read labels to find out what materials are in the product you are purchasing. You can research the brand online to gain insight as to the company’s beliefs and manufacturing practices. Find out what matters to you most and do your best to stick to what you want. After all, is that not what makes a happy and satisfied consumer? 

http://www.thwink.org/sustain/glossary/Sustainability.htm 

https://www.zayahworld.com/sustainable-fashion-design-needs-sustainable-materials/

https://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-fashion/do-you-know-which-fabrics-are-most-sustainable.html

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/what-is-the-most-animal-and-eco-friendly-material-for-clothing/

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/12/style/alternative-fabrics-sustainability-recycling.html


Kelsey is the Managing Editor at The Lux Authorityand is trying to balance both her budget and her credit card balance. She likes to live lavish and treat herself when the opportunity allows it. She loves the newest tech, old cars, the smell of rich mahogany, and leather-bound books as well! When she isn't working, Kelsey is an avid academic, artist, stargazer, blogger, and yoga enthusiast.

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Fabric Composting : An Experiment in Recycling with Suncoast Compost

Recycling has become a mainstay of many modern cultures and societies. In America, most commonly, items collected for recycling are brought to a facility, often times to be downcycled.

According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, downcycling is “to recycle (something) in such a way that the resulting product is of a lower value than the original item: to create an object of lesser value from (a discarded object of higher value).” Think turning thick white computer printing paper into a finer paper such as newspaper. Or take plastic soda bottles that are downcycled into lesser quality items like fleece and siding. The thing with downcycling is that eventually, all items come to an end of life and oftentimes still find their way to a landfill. It goes without saying, of course, that recycling of any kind is better than sending items directly to a landfill.

Here’s a question for you… of all the items that you recycle, have you considered recycling old clothes and other textiles? You may already be doing this, or a form of textile recycling, if you donate your clothes to a charity store, a friend, or someone else. But what about the items that are a little less than peak at time of donation – perhaps there’s a missing button or a small tear or stain. Those items will probably not be resold in a charity store or resale shop. So what happens to them? At some of the larger second hand stores, excess donations and items unable to be sold are baled and shipped to other corners of the globe. Sometimes, items are baled and shipped to manufactures for building insulation, carpet backing, or even made into cleaning rags. This is a form of textile downcycling, yet there is still excess waste.

All this got me thinking, is there anything else we can do? As a strong believer in compost and giving back to the Earth what came from her, I wonder if it’s possible to compost fabric? Through some research, I learned that the answer is yes. There are a few sources, including the EPA, that say fabric composting is possible, yet there is little to no information on it actually being done. Cotton is a plant and can therefore be composted much like any other plant. And cotton, and other natural fibers, has similar effects of food rotting in a landfill, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissionsand global warming. Additionally, since cotton is still the most used natural fiber in clothing productionat 39%, it’s safe to assume there’s a lot of it out there going to waste.

In an EPA report titled, Assessing Sustainable Materials Management : 2014 Fact Sheet, there were 258 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) generated in 2014. Of that figure, rubber, textiles, and leather comprised 9.5% of that. There is no information on textiles recycled or composted – unless they fell into the 6% ‘other’ category listed. Otherwise, it looks like 17% of textiles were combusted for energy recovery and 10% were landfilled – neither of these options doing much for the planet.

In another report produced by the Council for Textile Recycling,the US alone generates about 25 billion pounds of textiles per year, an average of 82 pounds per US resident. Of that 82 pounds, roughly 15% gets donated or recycled while the other 85% is landfilled. Collectively, textile waste equals around 5% of total landfill input. This 5%, accompanied by paper (28%) and food scraps (14%), means that nearly half (47%) of all landfill input is able to composted or further recycled.

Textile manufacturing already has a pretty hefty impact on the environmentwhen you consider the pesticides that went into growing the cotton, dyes that went into coloring the textiles, and pollution from production factories. A few ways of lessening your impact on the global fashion supply chain is wearing what you already have for a longer time, buy used clothes, recycle what doesn't fit, and repair damaged clothes rather than throw them away.

Another way to make the fashion and textile industry more green is to try composting these items. Composting textiles is, of course, not the answer to address the waste problem. But it could be one way to ease it. For the textiles that have small rips, stains, or other damages, composting the natural fibers could help with the excess materials heading for carpet backing and insulation.

Therefore Suncoast Compost and Sewn Apart are teaming up to conduct a fabric composting experiment, to see how textiles break down in a compost pile, and it see if it’s potentially scalable. Stay tuned and follow along on the journey!

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FYI - If it came from the Earth, or an animal, the textile can return to the Earth.

Fabrics that will break down

Cotton

Silk

Wool

Linen

Hemp

 

Fabrics that will not break down

Polyester

Viscose

Acrylic

Rayon

Lycra

Spandex