Shattered fashion industry must be fixed – The San Francisco Examiner
Last Thursday, many San Franciscans put on their party pants to celebrate Earth Day. But on Friday it was time to put on the work gloves. Protecting the planet, like fighting systemic racism or honoring your mother, is not something to be delegated to a single day event. It requires attention and a willingness to question choices, including something as simple as the impact of a t-shirt.
“Our privilege can prevent us from recognizing when we inflict harm,” said Manpreet Kalra of Art of Citizenry, an initiative that works at the intersection of sustainability and global development.
Kalra was speaking at a post Earth Day event on transparency in the fashion industry. San Franciscans may already know that most of our sweaters, sneakers, and other clothing are mass-produced by low-wage workers, mostly women, in factories in Asia. The enormous environmental impact of “fast fashion” is also gaining more and more attention. For example, the textile industry could use more than 26% of the global carbon budget by 2050, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
But distance and distractions can mask these realities. As San Franciscans reemerge from pandemic lockdown, there is an opportunity to also reinvent our closets as portals to connect us to the planet. Through their “Reclaim the Climate Narrative” campaign, Kalra and others in the industry are encouraging us to value the resources and suppliers behind our garments as much as we can value their labels.
“The modern clothing industry is designed to make profits for investors in the north of the world while exploiting countries in the south of the world,” Rachel Faller, co-founder of tonlé, a sustainable fashion brand based in San Francisco, and one of the founders of the campaign, told me. “I think it’s a modern extension of colonialism.”
In 2008, Faller moved to Cambodia on a Fulbright scholarship to study fair trade and sustainability. She remembers seeing giant bundles of clothes and fabrics piling up in second-hand stores and markets – junk from factories. After talking to the owners of the factory, Faller realized that they were also lost.
Suppliers in Asia are forced by the big brands to produce too much too quickly. This creates large amounts of waste. Some factories even burn the extra fabric, which can be made with petroleum-based material, for energy.
Joyce Hu of Wildlife Works, a Kenyan factory with market offices in San Francisco, sees a similar impact in Kenya. Second-hand clothes from North America and Europe are flooding the country. In addition to creating a lot of waste, this glut undermines local production and cultural expression.
“Instead of seeing people wearing clothes they’ve made, they’re wearing clothes that are thrown away from the country where I live,” Hu, who also works with Kalra, Faller and photographer Chloe Jackman on the film, told me. countryside. “I feel ashamed when I see Western garbage dumped on countries that have historically and continuously been used for mining.”
The pandemic has exacerbated some of these problems. Fashion brands have canceled orders, blocking suppliers. Last year, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association reported that 1,150 factories were encumbered with $ 3.18 billion in canceled orders.
This broken system needs to be repaired. To value people and the planet, San Franciscans must take care of their clothes, new and used, to make them last. Hanging drying can save electricity. Investing in companies like Tonlé and Wildlife Works can help address systemic issues in the fashion industry. And second-hand shopping can infuse new prana into a pair of yoga pants.
The Bay Area second-hand clothing site thredUP has developed a fashion footprint calculator to help consumers know how their closets are impacting climate change.
“Buying a used garment can reduce its carbon footprint by 82%, making resale one of the most effective ways to reduce the overall environmental impact of fashion,” Mandeline Aaronson, director told me. of the brand of thredUP.
The pandemic offered a harsh lesson in interdependence and respect. We put on our masks because we know our choices impact the health and safety of others. San Franciscans should bring the same spirit to our shirts, shorts and shoes.
Robyn Purchia is an environmental lawyer, environmental blogger and environmental activist who hikes, gardens and cuddles in trees in her spare time. She is a guest opinion columnist and her perspective is not necessarily that of the reviewer. Find out at robynpurchia.com.