Eco-innovation is likely to dictate fashion trends 20 years from now. The clothing industry has to constantly adapt to decreasing resources and increasing consumer demand for eco-friendly products.
Online PR News – 21-July-2010 – – How can your business succeed while having to worry about recycled resources, sustainable alternatives to fibers, organic dyes and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes?
High water usage, social inequities, toxicity from pesticides, unwanted clothing disposed in landfills and high energy consumption from washing and tumble drying constitute the footprint of the textiles industry. The UK environment department, DEFRA, aims to research the impacts of clothing and work with businesses to reduce these impacts, as part of their Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP). The life cycle assessment (LCA) is used to analyze the clothing life cycle and collect evidence.
The high impact of the textile industry
Initial research has revealed that significant amounts of energy are consumed and GHG emissions are produced as a result of washing and drying clothing by consumers, with cotton requiring more intense washing and longer drying times compared to synthetic materials such as polyester. When compared to cotton production, processing synthetic fibers from fossil fuels also causes substantial energy use, GHG emissions and resource exhaustion.
Conventional cotton growing has also been proven to have a high impact on water consumption through irrigation and a toxicity impact from pesticides and fertilizer usage. Dyes and finishes also have a considerable environmental impact in the production stage of the clothing life cycle. Landfills end up storing the majority of waste clothing and textiles, with non-synthetic materials possibly releasing methane which impacts on climate change.
Green is now in
The SCAP pushes the government, industry and consumers to tackle these issues and create solutions to reduce clothing packaging, to increase the recovery of unwanted clothing, to support the usage of sustainable fibers and fabrics, low impact laundering and to improve tracking ethics across the clothing supply chain.
Some of the biggest fashion companies worldwide are now working on reducing their impact. Tesco collaborated with recycling fashion pioneers to launch From Somewhere, a new online capsule Sustainable Fashion range. Continental Clothing has announced a 90% reduction in the carbon footprint of their organic T-shirt range (EarthPositive®). Levi Strauss creates care labels that educate consumers while Adidas and Nike are innovating sustainable design tools and techniques. In the UK, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Next all supported a project to monitor and reduce the impact of Indian dye houses on the environment.
These are examples of projects that textile businesses are currently involved in; however there is still a long way to go until these ideas become generally accepted. You must know your products, supply chains and impacts before searching for and implementing solutions to reduce these impacts. You must also ensure that the implementation of these solutions doesn’t affect the intended function of your product and more importantly the appeal to fashion of the conscious masses.
If you require advice on assessing the impacts using a life cycle approach or carbon footprint, or comparing materials with more sustainable alternatives, the SGS Ecodesign team can provide more information.
The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognized as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With 59,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,000 offices and laboratories around the world.