If you clicked on this article, I’d say there’s a good chance you care about something essential to me: the environmental impact of the fashion industry. If you do, thank you. It’s people like you that can and will make a difference.
Growing up on a Central California farm taught me the importance of living and creating sustainability. As a maker of sustainable handbags and purses, I am deeply aware of the impact of fashion on the environment. My mission is to reverse some of the damage done by doing business.
It is essential to look at the good and the bad parts of the impact to discuss this topic in a balanced way. Since I prefer not to be negative, let’s get the bad details out of the way first!
The bad parts of the environmental impact of the fashion industry:
Raw Material Extraction: The production of leather and other textiles, such as cotton, often requires toxic chemicals, such as hexavalent chromium, which can contaminate water sources and harm human health. In other words, when you wear that cheap T-shirt, it might expose you to unhealthy chemicals!
In addition, the extraction of raw materials also contributes to deforestation and land degradation. Careless deforestation contributes to the rise in greenhouse gases, which is bad news for the environment.
Manufacturing and Waste: The manufacturing process of handbags and other textiles involves using energy, chemicals and water, which contributes to carbon emissions and water pollution. The disposal of waste from manufacturing can also be harmful to the environment, as many of the materials used in clothing production are not biodegradable.
From Forbes: “The fashion & textiles industry is a major water polluter at all stages of the value chain, from the agricultural runoff from cottonfields causing algal blooms that choke rivers, to the dying process releasing a cocktail of toxic chemicals and the washing of clothes releasing microplastics.”
- Overconsumption: The fashion industry encourages overconsumption, leading to a culture of fast fashion. This results in increased waste and pollution, as consumers buy more items than they need and quickly dispose of them.
As you can see, the problem is significant. So let’s look at some of the good from the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
Sustainable materials: We, along with a growing number of fashion manufacturers, take great pride in sourcing materials for our products that are friendly to the earth. Cork fabric, linen, and organic cotton, to name a few. We wear our passion for sustainability on our sleeves (or shoulders, when it comes to our purses!).
Recycling: Many handbag makers, such as myself, are adopting sustainable practices, such as using recycled materials in their production process. This reduces the need for new raw materials and reduces waste.
Carry Courage uses 100% recycled and recyclable packaging when shipping products. The company’s processes are essentially zero-waste, as cork scraps are used to make EXPLORER keychain luggage tags. Any scraps smaller than this are responsibly recycled.
Durability: Our handbags and other higher-quality clothing items are made to last and to be used for a long time before replacing them. This reduces the demand for new products and decreases the amount of waste generated.
- Education: The fashion industry is becoming more aware of its impact on the environment and is taking steps to educate consumers on sustainable practices. This includes promoting reusable bags and encouraging consumers to recycle their old handbags. I suggest checking out Remake’s Fashion Accountability Report for more information on this topic.
The philosophical bottom line - and what YOU can do
As a handbag designer, I am committed to creating sustainable and beautiful products without compromise. Handbags should be made to last and quality materials and craftsmanship are key to achieving this. It gives me great pleasure to associate with and know of many other brands equally proactive in sourcing, manufacturing and recycling with minimal waste.
As consumers, we can take steps to reduce the environmental impact of our own wardrobes. We can take care of our clothing and accessories, repair them when damaged, and donate or recycle them. By carrying reusable bags, we can also reduce reliance on single-use items, such as disposable plastic bags.
By working together, we can make changes to reduce waste in the fashion industry. We can be good stewards of what we have to leave the planet a cleaner place for our children and grandchildren.
Thank you for reading! I welcome your questions and comments!