The Road to Sustainable Fashion: 3 Eco-Friendly Design Techniques

model showing clothes and flowers

With climate change looming upon us, the issue of sustainability comes into play for all industries, including fashion. Research shows that fashion accounts for around 10% of global carbon emissions and over 20% of wastewater.

What makes the fashion industry more problematic is the manic pace of change it encourages. With each passing season, consumers are driven to buy the latest items to keep up with trends. This means once a product becomes outdated, it usually ends up in the dump. In fact, studies show that up to 85% of textiles go into landfills each year. What’s more, clothing production consists of complex supply chains, making it difficult to track all the emissions that come from a single brand.

Some of the most popular types of garments often have the worst impact on the environment. The fabric dyes used in jeans, for example, contaminate water bodies and corrupt aquatic life and drinking water. Similarly, the elastane material found on tight jeans is made from synthetic materials extracted from plastic. This reduces recyclability and contributes to more waste.

Now more than ever, designers need to factor in environmental impact on their production methods. Fortunately, several alternative production techniques are less polluting on the planet.

Choose raw materials

Fashion products are produced using a wide range of materials. Linen, cotton, and leather are sourced from plants and animals. But other synthetic materials and chemicals needed in production are derived from fossil fuel-based crude oil.

Using raw materials, such as 100% organic cotton, will not only minimize the product’s carbon footprint but also result in more durable and quality clothes.

Use water-based inks

silkscreen printing

Designers commonly use plastisol ink for the silkscreen printing process because it’s cheaper and, therefore, more practical for mass production. It’s also the default choice for most commercial printers since it does not obstruct printing equipment by drying out.

However, most plastisol inks contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is a synthetic plastic polymer often considered as the most harmful of all plastics. Because it is widely produced for many sectors, accumulated PVC waste brings serious damage to ecosystems all over the planet.

Fortunately, water-based inks are rising in popularity, thanks to their quality, affordability, and eco-friendliness. Unlike plastisol, they do not feature toxic chemicals and PVC. Instead, they are made from naturally occurring substances and produced by suspending pigments in water with no plastics. No specialized chemicals are required for their cleanup either, significantly reducing toxic waste.

Recycle

Instead of relying on new resources or raw materials for every season, manufacturers should consider recycling. A lot of clothes and textiles can be collected, baled, and turned into raw materials. These, in turn, can be used to create new products.

If stocks and designs have hit the end of their life cycle, consider donating them to organizations or selling them at discounted prices.

From design to disposal, designers need to start paying closer attention to a product’s life cycle. Fashion houses must be accountable for every piece of fabric they use if they want to reduce their environmental impact successfully. While sustainability is a collective effort, change needs to begin from the manufacturers and big companies that control the fashion industry and shape consumer behavior.

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