Lenzing Tencel

Thanks to technology, we can now shop for almost anything online, 24/7: and it will be delivered right to your doorstep.

We love to shop for clothes more than anything else. We now consume about 80 billion new pieces of clothing collectively every year, which is 400 percent more than the amount we consumed just around two decades ago. While we enjoy the convenience, we often overlook the environmental impact of our impulse purchases of something we’ll probably only wear once.

Fashion waste is reaching a tipping point. It is the second-largest polluter in the world, just behind oil, and is not sustainable.

The fashion industry realizes this detrimental effect and ways to address the issue are evolving from within the industry. A significant driver was the signing of the U.N. Climate Change’s Fashion Industry Charter in late 2018. Forty-three leading fashion brands, including Adidas, Burberry and Hugo Boss, retailers, suppliers and other companies, committed to work together to address the climate impact of fashion across its entire supply chain.

Industry players are launching initiatives to better drive sustainability and promote a circular economy ecosystem in their supply chain, whereby resources are kept in use for as long as possible. The idea is to recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life. Sustainability is now one of the most important goals in the fashion industry for manufacturers, suppliers and brands as they gear toward more eco-friendly fibers and production methods.

Sustainable fashion has become an emerging trend. Environmentally friendly clothing is increasingly considered trendy. Online searches for sustainable fashion have had an upsurge: According to Forbes, Lyst has reported a 47 percent increase in shoppers looking for items that have ethical and style credentials with terms such as “vegan leather” and “organic cotton.” Several brands that have a strong stance on sustainability made the “most searched for” roundup for the first time. Consumers are more eco-conscious, and they want their purchases to reflect their values.

Zara, Levi’s, Stella McCartney and Mara Hoffman are just some of the fashion brands starting to emphasize eco-friendly fashion in their collections. In 2016, Zara incorporated Tencel branded lyocell fibers in its “Join Life” eco-collection to provide consumers with sustainable alternatives. Early this year, U.S.-based designer Mara Hoffman received the “Leading the Change Award” during a New York Fashion Week event as a recognition of her sustainable initiatives with her namesake label. To drive the circular economy, Mara Hoffman has partnered with Lenzing to incorporate sustainably sourced plant-based cellulosic fibers into its collections.

Robert van de Kerkhof, Lenzing

Chief commercial officer Robert van de Kerkhof. Photo courtesy of Lenzing. 

Certified as compostable and biodegradable, the fibers are produced in a closed-loop production process and can fully revert back to nature. Often, “it takes a village to raise a child,” and, likewise, for building an eco-friendly environment. It is important for all industry players to work together to drive eco-responsible practices and to ensure a sustainable development of the textile and fashion industry in the long run.

It has also become apparent that for the fashion industry to flourish in the future, it must redesign business and innovation models in order to create better economic, environmental and societal outcomes. Brands need to think about how to shift from the “take-make-waste” model that characterizes fashion today by embracing circular economy principles. Preserving the environment cannot be done alone; it requires a combined effort from everyone.

While the textile industry is gearing towards improving its production processes and supply chain transparency, as consumers, we can all also contribute in this “sustainability relay” by changing our consumption habits and stepping up to “green up” our wardrobe.

One way to start, is by learning how to read clothing care labels and learn about the raw materials our clothes are made of. Each component — whether it’s synthetic fibers, polyester or nylon — has a different impact on the environment. By learning more, we can develop better judgments on how eco-friendly clothing [truly] is. Once there is greater understanding about fabric [blends and origins], start to shop for eco-friendly brands. When shopping, always ask yourself, “Is this sustainable or not? Is it a must-have purchase? Do I need it?”

To make sustainable shopping decisions, bear in mind [the importance of] sustainable fibers. Innovation has allowed a wide variety of materials to be used in making clothing, such as wood-based fibers, hemp and lotus, and even your breakfast staples, such as coffee and bananas, which also make great textiles fibers.

Another tip is to learn the right way to dispose of your clothes: Can you find a way for them to enter the circular economy? Consider donating them to local charities, sell to a vintage store or even do-it-yourself clothing to give it a new lease of life. We can also take better care of clothing to increase its useful life. Lastly, spread the word to your friends. Get them inspired and motivate them to join in the eco-movement and do good together.

All phases along a product’s life cycle are interlinked. Every subtle action, be it the efforts from manufacturers, brands or consumers, can ultimately have a significant impact on the environment. As an advocate of sustainability, Lenzing is supporting the #Make It Feel Right campaign to raise consumer awareness on the meaningful impacts we can make by choosing eco-fashion products. Let us all take part in this meaningful movement for sustainable fashion and do what is right for our planet.

Robert van de Kerkhof is the chief commercial officer of Lenzing AG.

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