Fashion Is The Second Most Polluting Industry In The World —And It’s Turning To Food Waste To Cut Down On Emissions
The world is in a dreadful mess if you haven’t noticed. And —surprise, surprise— a lot of it is caused by the fashion industry. Apparel and footwear production accounts for 8.1% of global greenhouse emissions —or as much as the total climate impact of the entire European Union. The current fast fashion “only wear it once” mentality is causing an unprecedented strain on the planet’s resources. And a few brands are taking note of the magnitude of the problem and see an opportunity.
Both Fashion and the food industries are greatly responsible for an unprecedented strain on the planet’s resources.
Analysts warn that the fashion market’s annual 5% growth is straining planetary resources “at an unprecedented level,” by raising production to more than 100 million tons by 2030. For those of us who don’t know, ’Fast Fashion’ can be defined as ‘the cheap, disposable clothing, made indiscriminately, imprudently and often without consideration for environmental and labor conditions’ by the companies we all love —like Zara, H&M, Forever 21 and Fashion Nova— it’s a disease and both the planet and the people are facing the consequences.
Added on to the damage that fashion production causes, there’s the case of food production and waste.
Around the world, people eat around 100 billion bananas every year. That creates around 270 million tons of waste–from peels to stalks–which are often burned or left to rot. Crop burning pollutes the air, and rotting releases methane into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. But here’s where we have good news; a few masterminds of the sustainable fashion industry took into consideration the magnitude of this waste and saw an opportunity.
Single-use plastics and discarded fishing nets were among the first materials to be recycled into luxury products, but now it’s food waste that’s getting the sustainable spin.
US designer Mara Hoffman crafts all her buttons from tree nuts, while Hugo Boss and Veja sell sneakers made from repurposed pineapple leaves and corn starch, and Italian start-up Orange Fiber makes silk from scraps of citrus peel which has been used for Salvatore Ferragamo’s slinky floral printed scarves and dresses.
The true pioneer of sustainable —and luxury— fashion is Stella McCartney who launched her eponymous line in 2001.
As one of the industry’s most vocal champions of environmental issues, McCartney is a strong example of the commercial potential of sustainable, ethically minded businesses. Sustainability —and an ethical standpoint— shapes the company’s policies, its underlying business model and its brand message.
Stella McCartney opted out of using animal-derived materials such as leather, silk, wool, etc. for ethical reasons as well as for the environmental impact their production causes.
The environmentally conscious brand makes buttery vegan leathers out of mushrooms. For spring/summer 2019, McCartney offered gauzy vests and T-shirts crafted from vegan silk made from yeast, and leather trousers in earthy mustards and burgundy hues.
Food waste is definitely on-trend right now.
The huge luxury conglomerate who owns brands like Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Fendi —to name a few—LVMH, has teamed up with London charity Refettorio Felix for their ‘wine and spirits platform Clos19’ and host super fancy “supper clubs” where stellar chefs serve up three-course dinners using only waste produce — tickets cost £90, and each event sells out almost instantly.
It’s a movement happening across different lifestyle categories from dining to beauty and fashion. “Food waste is definitely trending right now,” says Lisa Carolan, founder of the first waste-free wellness resort Our Retreat, in Sardinia; she introduced a waste-free policy after discovering that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually.
The growing demand for natural skincare and plastic-free packaging has seen the beauty industry wake up to waste too.
Earlier this year, The Body Shop unveiled a collection of cleansers and moisturizers crafted from organic, “ugly” carrots that are too crooked to be sold in supermarkets. UK beauty brand, Cowshed, makes its packaging from repurposed sugar cane while London-based brands UpCircle and MontaMonta have both partnered with coffee shops across the British capital to turn used coffee grounds into scrubs and serums that are sold at Cult Beauty and Liberty.
Fashion brands will find that if they choose to use food waste, ‘The supply of material is plentiful.’
Data proving that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually also predicts that the figure is expected to rise to 2.2 billion by 2025 —according to the United Nations. Other statistics say that one-third of the food grown or produced in the world is discarded. “The supply of material is plentiful,” says Tom Broughton, founder of London-based eyewear Cubitts and a pioneer in the design of sustainable eyewear.
Cubitts produces opticals and sunglasses crafted from waste materials like corn husks and mushrooms. The specs even look like they’re made from wood, mais non, they’re made from corn starch. The brown finish is added from…wait for it… potatoes and coffee grounds.
In recent years, as the fashion industry has started to acknowledge, and wake up to the impact it has on the planet —aka. being the second most polluting industry after oil production— sustainability has become a buzzword, and the only way out. It’s encouraging to see that brands are taking serious steps in innovation to mitigate their negative impact on the planet. And just as fashion brands and designers are opting to see the value in waste rather than the waste in it, consumers also need to take their share of responsibility and shop with awareness and ethics.