Why is sustainable fashion important? There are so many conversations happening right now about the future of the planet, the disasters that we might face if we don't turn things around, and how best to tackle climate change. It is now more pressing than ever that we start to take these conversations seriously, before it's too late.
Fashion accounts for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is such a high percentage for one industry to hold. As well as this, the industry is also responsible for 20% of the planet's waste water - a fifth of all wastewater on the planet is a byproduct of the fashion industry.
While a large portion of these stats comes from fast fashion, we are all responsible. Making any product brand new is always going to have some environmental impacts, no matter how sustainably made the products are. But with that being said, there are definitely way more pros to buying sustainably than buying into fast fashion labels.
Many sustainably made clothing brands are made to be durable, so will generally last longer than clothing from fast fashion brands which are made with cheap material that is of a poorer quality. This means that sustainable clothing is worn for much longer, and is less likely to end up in landfill a year after purchasing. On average many items are worn only seven to ten times before being tossed, and the average person keeps clothing for half as long as they did 15 years ago. This means that clothing is ending up in landfill more and more than it used to, which then takes hundreds of years to decompose, and emits greenhouse gases. Sustainable doesn't guarantee long life, but should last longer than fast fashion.
Because fast fashion is so much cheaper, this also means that it is made in sweatshops, and workers aren't treated fairly, often working for a very low wage in poor conditions. You can find out more about this in our blog post about fast fashion here. These sweatshops are generally located in the far east, and so means that clothing is flown across the world adding to the carbon footprint.
“In Fast Fashion especially, clothes are often flown to meet tight in store deadlines. Not only the clothes but sometimes fabric is flown by air to help make those deadlines happen. Even if clothes are not flown all over the world, they can travel an awful long way before they make it to our stores or online retailer’s warehouse.”
But sustainable fashion isn't perfect. While there are many positive impacts, it is still a fairly inaccessible way of shopping as the price-point is generally much higher than with fast fashion. There are many reasons for this - from the higher cost of materials per meter, to the general ethics of paying workers more, all of these things drive up the price of sustainable garments, and make brands unattainable for many customers to buy into. This is often the case when becoming better for the planet, similarly with sustainable diets. But sustainability is about more than just carbon emissions and eco-design. We believe that our planet is not sustainable without providing sustainable livelihoods to the people who need it most. 93% of brands don’t pay a living wage in their supply chain. The average worker in Bangladesh earns the spending power equivalent of just 69p an hour, for 60 hours a week.
At Birdsong, we are aware that not everyone has the option to buy into our brand. We are aware that because of austerity and many other factors, many people in the UK currently face bankruptcy and are living on the poverty line. But that's why it's important for us to keep doing what we do, and hopefully one day we will all be able to shop sustainably.