Buy more! Buy now! Buy cheaper! Buy buy buy! As a nation our obsession with fashion has become unfathomably toxic - to both our people and our planet. The trouble is, the majority of us are not aware that purchasing a top priced at $9.99 from a large, fast fashion retailer negatively affects our environment in tremendous ways. When we shop we don’t think about the production of the fabric, the condition of the factory workers, or where that $9.99 garment ends up after we are done wearing it. We do think, however, about how trendy the piece is, what a steal the price is, how the quality isn’t too great but it’s alright because it only needs to be worn a couple of times anyways before it’s out of style anyways. THIS IS THE ISSUE! And it’s alright if you’ve fallen victim to this thinking, because we all have. But since our mission here at TagPop is to save the environment and end the textile waste crisis, we are here to help you understand the dilemma and show you how we can move forward. There is hope and action for a more ethical, sustainable fashion industry.
Fast fashion is the second largest polluter in the world, taking its place right after the oil industry. It’s a vicious cycle of consumption and waste, affecting the environment from the very beginning of a garment’s life cycle at production to its end at disposal after wear. Here’s how fast fashion is harmful to the environment:
CHEMICAL EXPOSURE: The pesticides and fertilizers used in the growth of cotton result in the environment and all living things being exposed to harmful chemicals
WATER CRISIS: Trillions of gallons of water are used in growing cotton and in producing the fabric, drastically depleting this precious, natural resource. Chemical runoffs from dyes and treatments are polluting the surrounding waters, agriculture, and communities of people. Water pollution doesn’t end at production however, as it still exists with the consumers. Laundering and dry cleaning your garments consumes a LOT of water, and chemical runoffs from synthetic fibers (such as polyester) is also entering and polluting waterways.
AIR POLLUTION: Fossil fuels and emissions from farms, factories, and the transportation of goods continuously pollutes the air.
LACK OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: The desire for the cheapest and fastest means of production often ignores the conditions factory employees are often forced to work in, which are often unsafe and unfair.
GARMENT DISPOSAL: Most fast fashion garments are made of synthetic fibers which are non-biodegradable and unsustainable by their very nature, resulting in their pollution of landfills.
THE GRASS IS GREENER
The crisis has not gone unnoticed. More and more factories in the fashion supply chain are innovating towards eco-friendly practices and proactively shifting the state of the fashion manufacturing industry. Green factories are reducing their energy consumption, creating less pollution, ensuring fair and safe factory working conditions, and using alternative materials that don't pollute the environment. Learn how the following three apparel manufacturers from around the world are consciously making a difference in the industry and set a green standard for others to follow.
ALTERNATIVE APPAREL: USA
Alternative Apparel is a green certified company based out of Los Angeles, California. The company stands behind ethical and sustainable fashion and strongly believes in the right to fair and safe workplace conditions. Alternative Apparel’s factories, located in the USA, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Peru, operate under the Fair Labor Association (FLA) code of conduct. They are also certified by the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP).
Alternative Apparel’s mission is to create “fashion basics for a sustainable future.” They produce modern and casual basics for both men and women made of 80% sustainable materials and processes. The company is mindful of water waste by using G2 wash, which uses 60% less water. Their materials are eco-friendly, organic, and recycled while also being treated with non-toxic, low impact dyes.
THE SQUIRRELZ: CHINA
Yes, green apparel manufacturers do exist in the largest market for apparel production in the world! Launched in 2013 by American-born, Shanghai-based Bunny Yan, The Squirrelz is China’s first upcycling and eco-wholesaler. The company started out as a brick & mortar selling sustainably produced goods by local designers but then expanded into manufacturing by providing designers and brands around the world with green textiles and recycled, defective materials from overstocked Chinese factories. Yan’s mission is to target the disconnect between designers and the origins of the materials that they use.
The Squirrelz sources material from high quality, environmentally conscious apparel manufacturers located in the outskirts of Shanghai and the Zhejiang province. Although there aren’t many of these sustainable manufacturers that exist in China, this is a great start. Aside from sourcing new, unused material, the company also collects overstock materials from Chinese factories who are happy to sell this material to make a profit. This overstock material usually ends up stored away or dumped, but Yan ensures it is recycled instead.
The Squirrelz has so far had a great response from import-export agents in both the USA and South America. Bigger industry insiders have also been recently paying attention to the company.
FUSION CLOTHING: INDIA
Since 1992, Indian manufacturer Fusion Clothing has provided high quality, ethically manufactured garments to top brands in Europe, North America, and Australia. The company is both certified as Fair Trade and part of Global Organic Textiles.
Fusion Clothing textiles are made from organic cotton and bamboo, which are both immensely sustainable. Organic cotton farming methods, including composting, mulching, and crop rotations, build “living soil” and eliminate toxic and harmful chemicals in order to maintain ecosystem balance and biodiversity. In their processes of organic cotton farming, Fusion Clothing focuses on social justice through treating all of their workers fairly and with respect, ensuring good health and safety. Organic cotton farming takes a lot more time than traditional, unsustainable practices of cotton farming, however the company believes in being mindful for long-term sustainability of the planet.
They also use bamboo fibers in creating their textiles. Bamboo is 100% naturally grown and it thrives naturally without pesticides or fertilizers. It is also 100% biodegradable and the fastest growing plant in the world! As the popularity of bamboo textiles increases, more bamboo plantations will arise resulting in more photosynthesis and less greenhouse gas.
In terms of social responsibility, the company also supports many different organizations, including causes such as reforestation and education programs for underprivileged children.
In addition to being a manufacturer, Fusion Clothing also has its very own brand of sustainable clothing called Do U Speak Green? The label creates yoga and loungewear made with 60% organic cotton waste and 40% recycled post-consumer polyester (PET) bottles certified by Global Recycle Standard. Do U Speak Green? garments are produced in a Global Organic Textile (GOTS) certified factory. The company also uses oxo-biodegradable bags using d2w technology- bags that will gradually decompose when exposed to bacteria.
BE THE CHANGE
Fast fashion and its cycle of consumption and waste is a crisis that may seem bigger than us and a feat too hard to tackle as individuals. But by being more mindful when you shop and making more sustainable choices little by little, we can alter the state of the fast fashion industry. Next time you go shopping for clothes, really take a moment to think about where the garment came from and who might have made it. Invest in pieces that come from manufacturers who practice sustainability and ethics. They may cost a little more, but you are supporting a movement that will result in a better future (and the piece is guaranteed to last longer since it’s better quality anyways!).
Another great, sustainable way to shop? Secondhand of course! Wearing pre-loved items, like TagPop, is a sure way to show our planet some love.