Textile production

The production of textiles consists of many steps and, all throughout this process, choices concerning environment, safety, and health are made. Unfortunately, the fashion industry still often ignores its impact on all of these aspects. For example, a lot of water and pesticides are used for the cultivation of cotton, while the production of synthetic materials requires the use of oil, with the obvious issues it entails. In addition, the process of dyeing fabrics can cause serious damage to man and nature, since a lot of chemicals and dangerous products are used in the process, and workers often handle these products without any protection.

Fortunately, the market for textiles that are produced in a more responsible and durable manner is growing, and there are multiple quality labels and certificates, which help you easily identify these fabrics. Oeko-Tex®, one of the organisations providing such labels and certificates, pays attention to aspects like the absence of harmful products, but also the emission output of factories, and the safety and working environment of workers. In addition, the organisation GOTS® provides a label which indicates that a fabric is biologically manufactured.

There are also producers who focus entirely on producing their materials in a responsible manner. Take the Austrian company Lenzing, for example. They produce modal (EcoVero) and lyocell (Tencel) in an entirely ecological fashion. The entire chain of production is closed. This means that all water, chemical additives, decolourants etc. are captured and reused or safely disposed of, so they don’t end up in nature. Furthermore, the wood cellulose comes from beech or eucalyptus from sustainable forestry, and chemical substances are replaced by natural materials.  The German company Fabrilogy is another example of a producer that works entirely according to ecologically sustainable standards and is GOTS certified.

Clothing consumption

To limit the damage to man and environment, it is important to be conscious about the kind of textiles you buy. But this is not the only way to be responsible when it comes to buying clothing. The last couple of years, fashion has increasingly become a disposable product. The ever-plunging prices have seduced us to keep on consuming, while a significant part of our clothes remain in our closets without ever being worn, finally ending up in the trash. A percentage of the clothes that are manufactured, won’t even be sold and will end up being burned. Processing this substantial amount of trash is not particularly beneficial to the environment. And let’s not forget the emission output of all the container ships and trucks that are needed to get all those clothes to our shops, or the terrible conditions in which factory workers have to work and live on a daily basis.

An alternative approach

Its extensive use of water, pesticides, oil, chemicals and dangerous products, as well as the factory emission output, waste of unused clothing and container ship and truck emissions it is responsible for, together make the fashion industry one of the most polluting industries in the world. Luckily, it is not difficult to be part of the solution, instead of the problem. Informing yourself about the effects of the fashion industry on man and environment, for example by reading articles like this one, is already a good first step. Once you are aware of the facts, small efforts are easy to make. If you pay attention to the type and amount of textile you buy, you don’t need a hundred pieces of clothing. Consider buying garments that can be combined easily and in many different ways. Buying clothes that are timeless instead of fashion-dependent will allow you to wear them for much longer as well. In addition, correctly maintaining your clothes, including being mindful about how and how often you wash and dry them, can also result in a longer lifespan. And once you are done with a piece of clothing, giving it to a second-hand shop, selling it yourself or turning it into something new prevents it from ending up on a landfill prematurely!

Although it is important to have all the facts, so that we can make informed and conscious decisions, we unfortunately don’t all have the (financial) means to put all of these suggestions into practice. Still, doing what you can, even if it isn’t as much as you’d like, goes a long way. If you don’t have the budget to buy a biological fabric, but decide to have your garment made locally, you are still lending a hand. I therefore do not use biological fabrics as a standard, but instead provide the option to choose your own, for example biological, fabric.

Leave a Reply