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Editorial Article | by Alison Elliott
The Fashion Industry & Climate Change
The fashion industry is considered one of the world’s top three most environmentally polluting industries, which heavily contributes to the climate crisis. The production of clothing uses water, chemicals, labor, plastic, and much more. “The fashion industry produces 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions, is the second largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and pollutes the ocean with micro-plastics.” Micro-plastics are released when clothing is washed. Micro-plastics are too small for water treatment plants to filter out and are released into waterways and oceans.
Plastic Pollution & Fashion
New technologies have emerged allowing fashion companies to create fabric from recycled water bottles. This helps to mitigate the environmental impact of fashion companies. Wolven uses this technology and sells up-cycled workout clothes. The technology also addresses the rate of single use plastic pollution. “Every year 11 million tons of plastic waste enter the ocean.” Plastic waste is estimated to triple in the next twenty years if no action is taken. Wolven is making strides towards reducing plastic waste but the problem is still prevalent. Plastic pollution is an anthropogenic problem impacting the health of the ocean and its wildlife. “3,400 pounds of plastic for every foot of coastline will enter the oceans by 2040.” One pair of Wolven leggings are made from 27 post-consumer recycled water bottles. Not only does Wolven source their fabric sustainably but they are a carbon neutral company. Wolven is a sustainable fashion leader who is changing the industry.
Sustainable Fashion Pioneer
Reformation has been a pioneer of the sustainable fashion industry since 2009. They began by selling vintage clothing and rapidly expanded to making their own. In October 2013, Reformation opened the first sustainable factory in the U.S. Two years later they introduced RefScale, which is a mechanism for tracking the company's environmental footprint. They have a recycle program where customers are financially incentivized to return their outgrown clothes. Reformation has been carbon neutral since 2015 and aims to be carbon positive by 2025. Their website is user friendly and filled with endless information regarding purchasing climate credits and micro-plastic capture systems.
Wolven and Reformation overlap in their mission and cause. Both aim to provide transparency, waste reduction, and impact to their consumers. They integrated the triple bottom line “people, planet, and profit” into their business models. Reformation has added a fourth aspirational bottom line “progress.”
What is Sustainable Fashion?
Sustainable fashion brands target a low environmental footprint. Ways to achieve this are through investing in sustainable and ethical fabrics, using sustainable packaging, operating green factories, and engaging in sustainable initiatives. A common theme is also social responsibility and is exhibited through supply chains.
Carbon neutral products are gaining popularity and are a very impactful piece of sustainable fashion. It means the emissions released into the atmosphere to create a product were completely offset. The most common way to achieve this is by purchasing carbon offsets. Carbon offsets counteract greenhouse gas emissions that have already been released. Wolven, Reformation, and other similar companies work with Climate Neutral, an organization who verifies their net-zero carbon emissions.
Fresh water is a major production requirement of clothing. It takes 9,000+ gallons of water to produce 1 pair of jeans. Fresh water is becoming more scarce and access in many regions is in demand. This issue is increasing with overpopulation. Reformation offsets water usage. Their clothing is 100% water-neutral through sourcing less water intensive fabrics and their partnership with Bonneville Environmental Foundation who restores Reformation’s used water. These efforts make Reformation a leading sustainable fashion pioneer.
A Shifting Future
There are increasing numbers of companies tackling the climate crisis. Wolven and Reformation are two companies spearheading the industry shift and educating consumers. As a result, customers now more than ever before have the power to vote with their dollar.