Over the past few decades we have not cared at all about how we were using Earth's natural resources and we have consumed our planet more than we had in the previous two millennia. An excellent result indeed.
Luckily in recent years, despite a series of world "leaders" denying the evidence, more and more people are beginning to think about the future of our planet, to think that when the ice of the North Pole melts, polar bears are not the only ones who should be worried.
In a recent documentary Sir David Attenborough, maybe the greatest science communicator ever, tells us how in his life (certainly not short, but he's not 600 years old anyway) he witnessed the disappearance of 30% of the wildlife. Nonetheless in the same film, he gives us some hope, saying that we still have time for a U turn.
Basically, industries must become smarter, we must return land to virgin forests and wildlife and we must learn to consume less and better.
Guess which is one of the most damaging industries on the planet?
That's right, it's the clothing industry.
Specialized researchers associations (like UCRF) and college specialized centers of research (like the CSF of the London College of Fashion) are trying to put the figures of this disaster. Even if it is a difficult task, the most reliable data give us a rather bleak picture.
Ready for some numbers? Spoiler alert, these are numbers that will make your blood run cold.
100 billion "clothes" are produced every year, 20% of which are not sold and are then destroyed (buried or burned).
Nearly 25% of all chemicals produced in the world are used for the textile industry.
Nearly 20% of water pollution is due to textiles.
342 million barrels of oil are used to produce synthetic fibers every year.
Okay, now you will say that you'll never wear synthetic fibers (are you sure?) and that you only use cotton t-shirts anyway. Unfortunately we have bad news for you: in order to make a t-shirt, 4.3 Kg of CO2 are produced (the same emissions of a car driving for 15 Km) and 2720 liters of water are consumed (that is what a person drinks in 3 years).
Still not worried?
Here is another fact: the yearly world production of cotton throws 107.5 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. To produce the same amount of CO2, a car would need to drive 1300 times an Earth to Sun round trip (it is a total of 402 million kilometers).
However, you cannot walk around in your birthday suit. Somehow you have to wear something, at least according to current public morality standards. But let's face it, maybe we are exaggerating a bit with compulsive shopping, aren't we?
Today in the USA, people buy 5 times more clothes than in the '80s (when we were already consuming a lot). In 2018 the average was 68 bought items per person, while in the rest of the world the average was 12, and of course each garment is then used on average only 7 times.
We know, these are sad numbers, but we warned you, didn't we?
However, nothing is lost. There are some alternatives to fast fashion and compulsive shopping of underused and soon-to-be trashed garments. Buying and wearing second-hand clothes is one of them. Maybe the most effective.
Buying vintage means avoiding to waste the resources to produce a new piece of clothing: saving a pair of jeans from destruction saves a little piece of the planet. It may sound silly, but it's actually pretty true. Besides, vintage clothes are usually of better quality: they stand the test of time because they are made of better fabrics and they are more finely crafted.
At this point, we probably convinced you to visit our store in Venice. For those who can't come to our city soon, we've built this project for a sustainable online shop. We're trying to take care of every detail in order to reduce our carbon footprint.
We only use biodegradable, recycled and recyclable packaging material. Besides, the same boxes we use for deliveries can be easily used for returns (even if we want to discourage the abuse of an extra delivery: please, carefully check measurements of every piece before purchase!).
In the absence of a real green supply chain in the delivery industry, we started a partnership with the Eden Reforestation Projects and we're planting a tree for every shipment we do.
Sir David Attenbourogh is over 94 years old and he is thinking about a future that he probably won't see. You are much younger, what would be your excuse for not thinking about it?
P.S. All data are taken from the 2015 study Sustainable Apparel Materials and the book Fashionopolis written by Dana Thomas. If you're interested, you could start by reading Kate Fletcher's or Timo Rissanen's books. If you want to take action, apart from buying vintage, there are several active associations and NGOs, like Fashion Revolution.