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Zero hour for Australian fashion
Zero Hour for Australian Fashion
This week is Zero Footprint Week, a climate change awareness week that encourages Australians to consider their current ecological footprint and take steps to reduce it.
As a vegetarian, who doesn’t drive, I thought my personal footprint was quite light, but I was shocked when the EPA Victoria footprint calculator told me my current footprint would need 1.7 planets to be sustainable.
The main offenders in my apparently eco-friendly lifestyle were goods i.e., furniture, clothing and footwear, which made up 32 per cent of my footprint, followed by services such as water and electricity and gas, making up 19 per cent.
While we all know the detrimental effect driving and excess energy consumption have on the environment, but I didn’t think the clothing and footwear I bought would have nearly as much of an impact on my ecological footprint.
When we swipe our card for a clothing purchase, we might think twice about the price, or the bill we’ll get at the end of the month, but we should really be thinking about what we don’t see when we pick up the end product.
Could my weakness for new clothing purchases not only be costing me a pretty penny, but also be costing the environment a fortune?
Clothing only accounts for 3.4% of
The fashion industry leaves a hefty footprint on our environment through its use of water and energy to grow and fertilise cotton crops, turn cotton into fabric, and fabric into a garment.
According to the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), one cotton t-shirt takes 2000 litres of water to produce, and uses about 1.5 kg of pesticide and fossil-fuel based fertilizers to produce the cotton.
The irrigation of cotton crops is the second largest use of water from the
The production process also uses harmful chemical dyes and bleaches. Then there is impact of plastic packaging, and the carbon emissions from transportation of the raw and finished product, which are especially high if a garment is produced overseas, resulting in higher ‘clothing miles’. Then, ultimately there is the disposal of clothing through landfill.
Is it enough, then, for environmentally aware consumers to just to buy organic cotton garments?
Current labelling requirements in
A recent review of the Textile Clothing and Footwear (TCF) industries, proposed that the industry should develop a logo, an Ethical Quality Mark, to show that a garment has been ethically produced according to labour, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability standards.
Australian brands have been incorporating organic capsule ranges into their collections. Labels including Sportsgirl, Quiksilver and Ksubi have produced all organic ranges.
Designer Lisa Gorman has taken an exemplary approach: her organic cotton range for her label Gorman, is just the tip of her sustainability initiatives. She hired an environmental consultant to oversee the design, production and retail operations of the business.
>Gorman has committed to ensuring that the entire business is ecologically sustainable - from using 100 per cent accredited green power, to using organic and sustainable yarns and fabrics wherever possible, to using recycled packaging, and even offering incentives to customers who ride their bikes into Gorman stores.
Anthony Szatow, Environmental Consultant for Gorman, says government needs to act by legislating to drive industry performance and accountability, as well as “reducing our dependence on fertilisers that are derived from fossil fuels.”
Government should be responsible for auditing supply chains and verifying the performance of so-called green providers to encourage transparency, and prevent ‘Greenwashing.’ A database of certified clean suppliers of various yarns and fabrics would, “encourage information sharing and transparency in the industry,” says Szatow.
The trend-driven nature of fashion has created an inbuilt obsolescence that sees consumers buying new garments each season, then disposing of them to make way for new styles.
Szatow says if we were really serious about reducing our footprint we would “go vegetarian, switch to green power, get rid of the car and stop buying stuff you don’t need.”
Amanda Little, Director of One at a Time Foundation, who launched Zero Footprint Week, says a Zero Footprint is a great ideal to work towards, but we can all start by making small steps to reduce our ecological footprint. “If you bought just one less tee-shirt a month, not only would you save 24,000 litres of water a year, you’d also be saving about $500.”
What you can do to reduce your fashion footprint:
We’ve certainly progressed from the image of hemp-clad eco-warriors, saving the planet in drab attire. Eco-fashion is now on the agenda of
While better regulation of the industry is needed, as well as resources to inform and educate producers and consumers about ethical clothing choices, we can all make an effort to reduce, buy green products where possible, and think carefully about how we dispose of clothing.