What the fashion industry doesn’t want you to know


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It’s hard to imagine the adverse effects of fashion just standing outside of H&M or Zara, but clothes factories across the world are polluting air, water, and soil to the point where it harms humans and wildlife alike. In Indonesia, where many of our clothes are manufactured, roughly twenty-five million people rely on the World’s Most Polluted Citarum river for agriculture, electricity, and water.

It’s easy to find out where our clothes are made, simply look at the tag on the inside. But what no one seems to see is the devastation caused by the manufacturing of these clothes. The fashion industry has been found by Eileen Fisher, a clothing industry magnate, to be the second worst polluter on Earth, after big oil.

“It’s a really nasty business … it’s a mess.” Says Fisher.

According to The Diplomat, the pollution comes mostly from around 2,000 textile factories. Roughly 20,000 tons of waste is dumped into the river every day and 340,000 tons of wastewater; dyes, cleaners, and other harmful chemicals alike, making the water unsafe to drink, wash clothes in, and even just to touch. Yet without much choice, communities relying on the Citarum river still use the water everyday, giving rise to cancer, skin conditions, and poisoned fish and wildlife everyday.

In another case, fifty-eight years ago a beautiful blue sea gave livelihood to hundreds of thousands of people in the Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan areas, and attracted thousands and thousands of tourists every year. Now where the Aral Sea used to be, is very little water and a barren, toxic wasteland; destroying a thriving fishing community and nearly all the plantlife and wildlife there was.

This is from millions of gallons of water being pumped to factories, mostly for clothes, every day, and pollutants being put back into the river, causing it to dry up and the fish and surrounding plant and wildlife to die, according to the NASA Observatory.

There are many clothing brands like Everlane, PACT, ThredUP, and Kotn that are working to improve the sustainability and environmental effects of the fashion industry. The Global Change Award program finds people across the world who have new ideas about developing technologies that will further help to reduce waste from the fashion industry, some are fascinating, like polyester-eating microbes and algae-based fabric and many more. Donating and recycling your old clothes is also an easy and effective way to help save save the planet.

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