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Fashion Cycling In The Clothing Industry Vs Sustainable Development

The fashion industry is the second-largest user of water globally, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), pointing out that 2,7 thousand liters of water are needed to make one cotton shirt. That amount is enough for a person to drink in 2.5 years. Since the clean water sources are becoming more scarce, and agriculture as an industry also contributes to pollution, the question is raised as to how much the fashion industry’s trend cycling is actually costing us in terms of crucial strategic resources like water.

The UNECE also estimates that one in six people worldwide works in a job related to fashion, an industry whose supply chain has a reputation for unsafe conditions, child labor, and other exploitative practices.

And while fashion is rarely mentioned in this discussion, it’s no surprise that it comes up during talks about reaching the UN’s sustainable development goals, such as reducing poverty, providing people everywhere with clean water and sanitation, promoting gender equality, and offering humane working conditions for all.

At a March 1 event in Geneva, titled “Fashion and the Sustainable Development Goals: What Role for the U.N.?”, the organization cautioned that the fashion’s industry’s practice of churning out increasingly large volumes of cheap, disposable clothing is an “environmental and social emergency.”

The average shopper of today keeps on buying quantities of clothing unimaginable a few decades ago, and to top it off, they are discarded after only half the time. This fast, cheap cycle is destructive on many levels.

The US and Europe have led the way in this behavioral shift, but the pattern is repeating now in countries such as China.

The apparel industry is also a heavy polluter, due to the energy required to grow raw materials and produce fabrics, as well as the number of chemicals involved in dyeing and finishing all that fabric. Cotton farming, in particular, uses a disproportionate amount of the world’s insecticides. In a report released in February, ClimateWorks Foundation and Quantis, a sustainability consultancy, calculated that the apparel and footwear industries together account for 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and unless something changes fast, apparel’s climate impact will increase 49% by 2030.

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