When most of us envision pollution, we think about massive coal power plants. Little do we know that something that we wear can almost have the same impact. The fashion industry is a nasty business and has a tremendous impact on the environment. Eileen Fisher, a clothing industry magnate, even says that it’s the world’s second most polluting industry next to big oil! Isn’t that crazy?!
While the fashion industry’s impact is hard to believe and estimate, we know for certain that its long supply chain has an immense impact on the environment and workers that produce the garments: from the excessive use of natural materials, the pesticides that are used, textile manufacture, clothing construction, toxic dyes, shipping, retail, use, ultimately disposal of the garment to the entire carbon footprint of all these steps. And with the trend of fast fashion the impact is getting bigger and bigger.
So it’s even harder to believe that H&M, which is one of the companies specialized in fast fashion, is launching a World Recycle Week. The Swedish giant is the current largest clothing retailer in the world at $20.2 billion in sales (as of January 2015). With its campaign, H&M invites the consumer to drop off their old clothes so H&M can “recycle them and create new textile fibre, and in return you get vouchers to use at H&M”. What seems like a good attempt from the largest clothing retailer towards a more sustainable business, leaves completely the fact out that technical issues with commercial fibre recycling mean that only a small percentage of recycled yarn is used in new garments. That also means that the rest of the clothes is perhaps sold controversially as second-hand. It is highly questionable, especially because H&M is promoting sustainable fashion while simultaneously putting out inexpensive new collections, whether this is real greening or just greenwashing.
What is even more frustrating about this campaign is the timing. The World Recycle Week is in the same week as the Fashion Revolution Week on the 18-24 April. The Fashion Revolution is an organization that wants to raise awareness and challenge the fashion industry and its customs by asking with the help of us, the consumer, the retailers #WhoMadeMyClothes on Social Media. It’s a movement in honor of the Rana Plaza disaster that occurred on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 in Bangladesh. The Rana Plaza was an eight-story garment factory -where H&M and others produced clothes- that collapsed due to poor construction and caused the death of 1,134 people and hundreds of injured others.
Now it’s up to you to choose, which campaign you want to join. I mean, I get it: it’s hard to know what to do in the fashion jungle. Especially when something doesn’t seem harmful on the first glance. I also used to shop mainly at H&M and other big retailers. But going into more and more research about it, makes me just more aware of the fact that I as a consumer can choose who and what I want to support.
That is why I will be dedicating my Instagram feed to the Fashion Revolution Week and post more fashion related information this week. So please follow, if you don’t want to miss it and join the revolution!
©Photcredit: Fashion Revolution