The Green Fashion Revolution
It's becoming increasingly clear that the fashion industry is lagging years behind other major industries such as consumer goods, which have already made significant strides towards their sustainability goals. For years, many fashion brands have made bold statements about their intentions to support the environment but the reality is that many of these commitments have been superficial PR exercises.
The fashion industry is on the verge of a green revolution. The future of fashion looks very different than it does today. It's no longer acceptable for brands to have a small collection of organic cotton t-shirts and claim that they're doing right by the environment. Consumers are demanding more from brands every day, and for brands to survive they're going to have to make meaningful strides towards reducing their environmental impact across their entire product portfolio. This means sourcing responsibly and using materials in the products that are less harmful to the planet.
Lyfcycle has been a purpose driven company since it's inception. Our purpose has always been clear, to clean up the fashion industry and make it more sustainable. Last week we made a commitment to achieving 5 humble yet ambitious sustainability targets by 2025, we've dubbed them our '5 for 25'. These targets form our blueprint for achieving a more sustainable future for fashion.
We could have chosen an endless number of targets for our business, but we've singled out the five key areas we think we can have the biggest impact for the industry:
It's well known that plastic pollution is a huge environmental problem for our planet. With so much single use plastic in circulation, there's a massive opportunity to repurpose old PET into new textile fabrics for production. Using recycled plastic bottles to make polyester can be more environmentally advantageous than using many natural alternatives. It avoids extracting even more resources from the planet and can clean up some of the mess we've created over the years. Naturally it requires energy to collect, recycle and repurpose, but this can be considerably less than is needed to develop new materials. That's why we're committed to using recycled plastic bottles in our production, it's an environmentally friendly and cost effective way to manufacture new garments.
Cotton is one of the most water intensive commodities to grow and process. It's estimated that every kilogram of virgin cotton takes approximately 10,000 litres of water to produce… and around half of all textiles are made of cotton! Cotton cultivation is linked to massive losses of fresh water supplies across the globe. The Aral Sea, once the worlds 4th largest lake is disappearing, largely because of cotton cultivation. The UN has called it one of the planets worst environmental disasters. As well as being water intensive, cotton is also known to cause serious issues such as soil degradation and pollution due to pesticides. That's why we're committed to sourcing cotton sustainably, using recycled cotton and exploring different alternatives for cotton which have a smaller environmental footprint.
Textile waste is a huge problem for the industry, a massive amount of waste is being generated in both production and post consumer disposal. It's estimated that approximately 15% of all textiles used in production is lost in the cutting process. The environmental protection agency estimates that around 15 million tonnes of textile waste is generated each year globally, the majority of this will end up in landfill or being combusted with only a very small proportion of this being recycled. That's why we're working with our customers to repurpose 100% of cutting waste from the production process as we work towards zero waste manufacturing. We're also committed to collaborating with our customers to support take back schemes for post-consumer clothing where pre-loved garments can be reused or recycled.
Packaging & Design
Less attention is often given to packaging and design details in the fashion industry since it's less visible to consumers. But the truth is, it's an easy fix. The majority of ready made garments are shipped in plastic poly bags which can easily be replaced with biodegradable or compostable alternatives. The same goes for other design details like buttons and care labels which generally use plastic. That's why we're committing to source 100% of our packaging and design details sustainably by 2025.
Most garments have a huge carbon footprint when you consider the energy required to produce the raw materials, process into textiles, manufacture into garments and all of the transportation involved in preparing the goods and delivering to their final destination. Naturally, we're focusing on minimising our carbon footprint in all of these areas by using recycled materials, working with factories that monitor their carbon emissions, seeking greener manufacturing processes and exploring more sustainable logistics solutions. Whilst we're doing all of this in the background, it can be difficult to set tangible carbon emission targets which is why we're aiming for something much simpler. As well as trying to minimise our footprint across our value chain, we’re committing to plant 10,000 trees y 2025 to give something back to the planet and offset our carbon footprint.
Our efforts as an organisation are a splash in the ocean for the global textile industry, but we're hoping that by leading by example we can make a significant impact to the way clothing is sourced, manufactured and disposed. The time for brands to act is now, or they'll soon be left behind.