SUSTAINABILITY & ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
In a world in which almost one billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, do you know that the fashion industry wastes 70 million gallons of water to produce eighty billion items of clothing globally each year. The Industry also produces 2.1 million of CO2 emissions. The volume of water consumed by apparel production per year is currently the equivalent to 32 million Olympic swimming pools.
250,000 Indian cotton farmers have killed themselves in the last 15 years due to the stress of debt they accumulated through buying genetically modified cotton seeds to keep up with demand. The wages of workers in garment factories can be as low as $1-3 US dollars a day. As a global population, we are using the equivalent of 1.5 planets worth of natural resources. Every year we continue to extract new raw materials to create products that most likely end up in landfill where they take centuries to decompose.
Water pollution spreads toxins on a global scale, causing diseases and premature death to farmers, workers and destroying the environment. Then there is the microfibre plastics that find their way into the oceans which get into our food chain through the fish and sea creatures and absorbed into our bodies.
The energy consumption for this mass production of clothing for the fashion Industry creates greenhouse gas emissions accounting for 10% of global carbon emissions, together with the effects of soils degradation, water desertification, rainforest destruction and animal and worker abuse, this is what is happening behind the glamorous displays of the fashion industry!
Generally we have become a nation of hoarders, over loaded with choice. We need to reverse the idea of 'fast fashion' into 'slow fashion'. It's not hard to buy less and buy well. Long term you end up saving more, even if you're spending more on a single piece. It's the long term investing that makes the difference.
ANIMAL SKINS ENVIRONEMNTAL HAZARDS
The common perception is that Animal Skins are a natural commodity but how far from the truth can that be? There is nothing “natural” about clothing made from animals. The production of wool, fur, leather and cashmere etc contributes to climate change, land devastation, pollution, and water contamination. It has a huge impact on both greenhouse gas emissions and land sterilisation. The skins/pelts are treated with a cocktail of toxic chemicals to "convert the putrefactive raw skin into a durable material", which is cancer causing to the workers involved and a huge hazardous pollutant to the environment, the rivers and water sources.
According to the World Bank, the hazardous process of fur dressing is so problematic that it is now ranked as one of the world’s five worst industries for toxic metal pollution. Raising animals for their fur also pollutes the air.
In Denmark, where more than 19 million minks are killed for their fur each year, more than 8,000 pounds of ammonia is released into the atmosphere annually. It is not only the animals’ faeces that cause environment hazards but also the "degradation in water quality to be primarily a result of high phosphorus inputs resulting from releases emanating from mink farming operations." It takes at least 4 times more energy to produce a real fur coat than a faux fur coat. The making of one mink fur coat emits 7 times more CO2 than the making of one faux fur coat, so on average 5 faux fur coats have significantly less impact on climate change than that of one mink fur coat.
Various salts—along with ammonia, formaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide, other chromates and bleaching agents—are used to preserve and dye fur. Much of the world’s fur is processed in China, where environmental regulations are often ignored. Producing a fur coat and trim can be three times higher than making a faux fur coats but in the production of some fur fashion products the environmental effects may be 10 times higher.
In addition to the dangers posed to the environment by the chemicals used to stop animal fibres from decomposing, the impact these have when they come into contact with the skin is causing increasing concern. A German study found large quantities of carcinogenic substances in the fur trims of well-known brands of children’s jackets. Formaldehyde – a carcinogen – and ethoxylates which are known to disrupt hormone production, were at levels well above those deemed safe.
Until the late 1800s, animal skin was air- or salt-dried and tanned with vegetable tannins or oil, but today animal skin is turned into finished leather with a variety of much more dangerous substances, including mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils, dyes, and finishes—some of them cyanide-based. Most leather is chrome-tanned. All wastes containing chromium are considered hazardous by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Groundwater near tanneries has been found to have highly elevated levels of a variety of toxic substances such as, arsenic, chromium, lead, and zinc likely because of wastes disposed of on the land— as a stark example: water samples taken from tanneries near to the Lamprey River in New Hampshire and its wetlands indicated the presence of cyanide, chromium, and polychlorinated biphenyl.
Arsenic is only one of a number of common tannery chemicals that has been associated with various cancers in workers who are exposed to them on a regular basis. Workers are susceptible to a higher risk of lung cancer, testicular cancer, soft tissue sarcoma, pancreatic cancer, bladder cancer among other types of chronic diseases.
Studies have shown that even finished leather products—especially those in direct contact with the skin, such as gloves or shoes—contain high levels of a toxic chemical called hexavalent chromium, considered to be a strong allergen that can lead to skin reactions like eczema.
The annual global impact of animal leather is approximately 130 MT Co2e. This is the same amount of damaging emissions
as those from 30 million passenger vehicles each year. Animal skin's carbon footprint is 2 to 3 times more harmful than the alternatives. The global average water footprint of raising cattle for leather is 17,093 litres of fresh water per kg of leather.
Land has been cleared and trees have been cut down to make room for grazing sheep, which has led to increased soil salinity, erosion, and decreased biodiversity, also adding to the methane emissions.
As well as faecal matter contaminating the waterways an unfavourable change in vegetation and erosion has led to the formation of Badlands (heavily eroded, barren areas) and gully systems. It takes approximately 500,000 litres of water to manufacture a metric ton of wool. Not only does animal agriculture consume huge amounts of water, chemicals used for wool production can also pollute existing water supplies. Sheep "dip", which is a toxic chemical used to rid sheep of parasites, presents disposal problems and can harm the environment.
According to the "HIGG Material Sustainability Index" (an apparel and footwear industry self-assessment standard for assessing environmental and social sustainability throughout the supply chain), which scores textiles based on their environmental costs of production showed that synthetics have a less negative impact than other types of fabrics. This was also confirmed by the “Pulse of the Fashion" industry report which found that polyurethane (PU) leather has less than half the impact on the environment than animal-derived leather, because it does not have the livestock footprint. A similar comparison was made between polyester and wool. Just to reiterate: animal-derived leather and wool are twice as harmful to the environment as PU and polyester, which are plastics! The report also found on a whole that 3 of the 4 most environmentally damaging materials are animal-derived.
To conclude by purchasing only cruelty free products and alternatives, not only are you taking a stand for animals, you’re also helping to preserve natural ecosystems throughout the world. ☺