Jemma Finch is Co-Founder & CEO of @storiesbehindthingsStories Behind Things was built on a desire to re-connect to the things that we consume on a daily basis. It aims to celebrate the power of storytelling when trying to live a more sustainable life. What began as a passion project has now grown into a multi facetted platform and force for change.
For the final article in this series we discuss the effects the fashion industry has on the environment. Ultimately, in multiple ways the fashion industry has been accountable for irreversible damage to our planet. As the sustainability movement grows it’s increasingly important to regain the control we have as consumers, to understand the environmental problems we face, to know what to look out for and demand accountability! Below we will explore three key areas in which fashion damages the environment, and ways to counteract these. 
  1. Water Pollution 

In most of the countries in which garments are produced, untreated toxic liquids from textile factories are often dumped directly into the local waterways. An estimated 20 % of water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment, according to the World Bank. These toxic liquids contain substances such as lead, mercury, and arsenic, among others too. These are all extremely harmful not only for aquatic life, but the increased risk of contaminating local waterways for local communities who rely on local water for eating, drinking and cleaning. These contaminated waterways make their way to the seas and eventually spread all around the globe. 

How to combat water pollution - Where possible, purchase organic and natural fibers as these do not require the harsh toxic chemicals to be produced. 

  1. Micro Plastics 

Every time a synthetic garment is washed (an item made from or includes polyester or nylon) thousands of microscopic plastic microfibers are shed, and make their way into our waterways. Scientists have discovered that small organisms in our oceans ingest these microfibers, which are consequently eaten by small fish, these then make their way into our food chain. The University of California at Santa Barbara stated that “on average, synthetic fleece jackets release 1.7 grams of microfibers each wash.” and more than 4,500 fibers can be released per gram of clothing per wash, according to preliminary data from the Plastic Soup Foundation. This is the shocking reality of the rise of plastic fibres in our clothing! 

How to avoid micro plastics - turn away from clothing made from nylon and polyester, and invest in natural materials. 
  1. Waste 

Clothing has become more and more disposable, as the accessibility increases and cost decreases. As a result, we generate more and more textile waste each year around the globe. Around 60% of all clothing made is not used, and only 15% is recycled or donated, and the rest goes directly to the landfill or is incinerated, a recent study from the World Bank found. The issue with throwing away so many clothes, is the time they take to decompose and the toxins they release in the process. Landfills are becoming overcrowded and filled with harmful chemicals. Every tonne of discarded textiles that is reused or recycled can save up to 11 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. 

How to combat waste - buy less and buy better, swap with friends, rent, embroidery and upcycling to pieces that you own to inject love into them.
We as consumers hold so much power in using our voices to demand change. Write to the brands you love asking them what their sustainability goals are; how much they pay their workers and how they guarantee safety and represent their freedom; do they offset their carbon and plan to reduce their emissions? Brands should be happy and able to answer all these questions, and if they don’t, use this as a chance to support a brand who will. 

To conclude this series, I’d like to give a huge thank you to the team at Wolf & Badger for partnering with me to share insight into different elements of the sustainability movement. See below for my favourite brands stocked at Wolf and Badger that prioritise the environment: 

All photographs taken at Wolf & Badger Studios. For more information about the photographs go to wolfandbadgerstudios.com