Sustainability Leadership Opportunity _Chapter 2

In my previous post, I spoke about how blogging represents for me a Sustainability Leadership Opportunity. Now, given I am asked to pick up another one for the two years that I am on the Master in Sustainability Leadership programme, I have decided – coherently with the topic I have chosen for my dissertation –  that my sustainability opportunity will be to move to a ‘100% sustainable wardrobe’. 

Why is this a significant challenge to take on?

Few facts:

–    Total greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production is estimated to be 1.2 billion tonnes annually, more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined

–    In the UK, around 300,000 tonnes of textile waste ends up in household black bins every year, sent to landfill or incinerators 

–    It is estimated that more than half of fast fashion produced is disposed of in under a year.

–    The average lifetime for a garment is estimated to be about 2.2 years, roughly half of what it used to be in 2000

–    Clothing utilisation has decreased by 36% compared to 15 years ago. In the US clothes are worn for around a quarter of the global average.

–     It can take 2,700 litres of water to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt, enough for one person to drink for 900 days

–    Less than 1% of the material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing representing a loss of more than USD 100 billion worth of materials each year

–    Synthetic microfibers are being found in the deep sea, in Arctic sea ice, fish and shellfish 

–    Forced labour is used to pick cotton in two of the world’s biggest cotton producing countries, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

–    In Bangladesh, last January one worker was killed and 50 others injured after police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at some 5,000 workers protesting over low wages

(sources: A new textiles economy: redesigning fashion’s future by Ellen MacArthur Foundation; The State of Fashion 2019 by McKinsey and BOF; FIXING FASHION: clothing consumption and sustainability by House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee: Bangladesh strikes: thousands of garment workers clash with police over poor pay by the Guardian)

Photo by Marianne Krohn on Unsplash

This data is shocking and indicate the urgent need for transforming the industry and the way we consume fashion.  

What does it mean for me?

The above information and the many articles I read weekly on the topic led me to reconsider the way I shop for fashion. Although I have made already a few steps in the right direction – I did not buy clothes/shoes for many months, I wash my clothes with short cycles and at low temperature, I do not tumble dry nor iron my clothes, I gave away clothes I was not using to charities – there is much more I can do.

There are three areas I would like to focus on:

1. Build a repertoire of sustainable brands to shop from

2. Learn how to mend and repair my clothes. Even learn how to knit some of my clothes/accessories!

3. Reduce of 1/3 my wardrobe by giving away everything I have not used for a quite some time and organising one swap event with friends a year (which has the benefit of talking to them about fashion waste and nudge them to buy less!)

In the following months, I will report on this blog on my progress, learnings, challenges, frustrations and successes. And hopefully, inspire other people to join me on the journey!

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

One thought on “Sustainability Leadership Opportunity _Chapter 2

  1. coffee_sustainability 11th Mar 2019 / 10:11 am

    Hi Simona,

    This is a great post! I always feel environmental and social impacts of cotton production receive scant attentions compared to other food productions. Perhaps people are less concerned about what they wear rather than what they eat– but cotton production is as deteriorating as food production if it is not done in the right way. I am sure you have read this website:

    I feel exactly the same regarding recent success of “Fast Fashion” brands contributed to more irresponsible consumption. Just like other western Fast Fashion brands, a Japanese Fast Fashion Brand called “UNIQLO” received the backlashes from some NGOs. As a result, they started several sustainability initiatives such as recycling all clothes, donating clothes for disaster relief purpose and sustainable jeans initiative etc.

    Meanwhile, Chinese NGO started negative propaganda against UNIQLO regarding their poor social standards applied to their labors in Chinese factories.

    After all, I feel it is difficult to resolve all the sustainability issues for Fast Fashion brands unless they change their business model completely. It is important to raise awareness regarding sustainable consumption for fashion industry among general public, especially targeting to younger generations. I feel your sustainability leadership opportunities are great steps.

    Recently, I found my 14 years-old girl is into “thrift shopping” rather than shopping at the Fast Fashion Brands as she was previously engaged. The reason for transforming my girl’s behavior was:

    1. Got tired of wearing the same clothes that all other girls are wearing.
    2. Found a nice, second hand items from 1980s as “cool”.
    3. It takes more time to find the best items going over many thrift shops, so a sense of “accomplishment” is more rewarding.
    4. Received educational opportunities regarding responsible consumption at the school.

    It is difficult to change teenagers’ way of behavior unless they understand the rationale based on their experiences. In other words, education has to go hand by hand while they change their social behavior to satisfy their interest. I hope you can identify your best way to achieve “100% sustainable wardrobe”.


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