Fashion makes us feel elegant and affluent, creating unique looks that allow people living in crowded societies to set themselves apart with unique styles. But fashion also comes at a substantial environmental cost. According to many estimates, 10% of the world’s carbon emissions and 20% of wastewater are generated by making, shipping, and selling clothing, much of which ends up in landfills long before the clothing’s usefulness is exhausted. Meet Kurt Kipka, Chief Impact Officer at The Apparel Impact Institute. This nonprofit is working to reduce the apparel industry’s negative environmental and social consequences. The Apparel Impact Institute created a methodology called Clean by Design that helps textiles and clothing manufacturers identify issues, get funding to trial new strategies, and propagate solutions across the industry. The organization emphasizes the importance of objectively measurable progress toward using less energy, water, and chemicals and reducing waste in the manufacturing process.
The American Chemical Society, funded by the plastic industry responsible for the rise of the materials that enable fast fashion, claims the volume of fashion production will grow by 300% before 2050, which is unsustainable. Our society might be buried in its clothing waste. Kurt outlines the path to a more sustainable fashion industry, including using natural and recycled fiber, decarbonizing production, and shorter supply chains built around local clothing hubs that sell, resell, repair, and recycle clothing. Today’s fast fashion item that costs $10 and is worn three times before being discarded could become a durable piece of clothing that is sold, resold, loaned, and traded in many times, with the fashion label earning revenue at each turn as the facilitator of the experience of shopping for quality, long-lasting clothing. You can learn more about the Apparel Impact Institute at https://apparelimpact.org/