While fashion undoubtedly can have a positive effect on the individual, the industry is harmful to our planet. With consumption of clothing growing rapidly, we all have a role to play in ensuring that the fashion industry is sustainable. By partnering with Thread Together, Anglicare and St Andrew’s are ensuring a positive environmental and social impact.

Dr Alice Payne

“Everyone has an ethical action space you can work within … We all have a scope of decision making that can allow for a more sustainable system.”

Dr Alice Payne is an Associate Professor in Fashion at QUT. She researches the environmental impacts of the fashion industry and its supply chains. Dr Payne has also examined how issues of sustainability relate to cultural norms and experiences. She is an award-winning fashion designer in her own right, exhibiting her designs in Australia and abroad.

Fashion sustainability affects us all

Clothing means so much to so many different people, but it is important to remember the environmental impact. As societies grow wealthier, they consume more and more clothing as fashion deepens its social and economic connections to individuals. Fashion trends become not only obtainable, but necessary items for many. In the Western world, we buy 60% more clothing compared to 20 years ago, but we keep items of clothing for half as long. This gulf only widens as we compare trends further back in history. Our consumption of clothing has skyrocketed.

While this may be great for our wardrobes, the earth inevitably suffers. Clothing production is not a clean nor a green industry. Currently 8–10% of all global emissions can be linked to global clothing supply chains. To put that into context, the combined industries of aviation and global shipping contribute to five per cent of global emissions. As the global demand for clothing rises with population growth, and more and more people emerging out of poverty, the fashion industry could cause up to 26% of global emissions by 2050.

The production of clothing is also extremely resource-intensive. It is estimated that 118 billion cubic metres of water will be used per year to grow the raw materials needed for clothing manufacturing by 2030. Just the process of dyeing clothes uses the equivalent of two million Olympic-sized pools of water each year.

Unfortunately, we also generate enormous amounts of waste with our consumption of clothing. A huge 87% of clothing ends up in landfill or incinerated only a couple of years after being produced. That’s enough to fill Sydney Harbour every year. This is no surprise considering that only 1% of clothing is recycled globally.

Anglicare, Thread Together and St Andrew’s are collaborating to do their bit to help. By combining forces, we’re helping to turn the tide. Thread Together has already diverted 1.2 million items of clothing to help its patrons, and the environmental and social impact of the program will only increase with the support of Anglicare and St Andrew’s.

Sources and Further Reading:
Cotler, Amanda. “Why Sustainable Fashion Matters.” Forbes, October 7, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ellevate/2019/10/07/why-sustainable-fashion-matters/.

Knight, Lizzie. “Sustainability in The Fashion Industry Faces An Uphill Climb.” ABC News. ABC News Network, January 8, 2020. https://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/wireStory/correction-eu-fashion-sustainability-issues-story-68119669.

Sumner, Mark. “Can the Fashion Industry Ever Really Be Sustainable?” The Fashion Law, April 19, 2019. https://www.thefashionlaw.com/can-the-fashion-industry-ever-really-be-sustainable/.

McFall-Johnsen, Morgan. “The Fashion Industry Emits More Carbon than International Flights and Maritime Shipping Combined. Here Are the Biggest Ways It Impacts the Planet.” Business Insider Australia, October 18, 2019. https://www.businessinsider.com.au/fast-fashion-environmental-impact-pollution-emissions-waste-water-2019-10?r=US.

Reichart, Elizabeth, and Deborah Drew. “By the Numbers: The Economic, Social and Environmental Impacts of ‘Fast Fashion.’” World Resources Institute, January 10, 2019. https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/01/numbers-economic-social-and-environmental-impacts-fast-fashion.

World Bank. “How Much Do Our Wardrobes Cost to the Environment?” World Bank, September 23, 2019. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2019/09/23/costo-moda-medio-ambiente.

“A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future”. Ellen Macarthur Foundation, 1 December 2017. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/A-New-Textiles-Economy_Summary-of-Findings_Updated_1-12-17.pdf.