Clothes shopping is an undeniable part of western culture, but just how harmless is this treasured pastime?
People are becoming more and more aware of the damaging effects that over-farming and over-fishing has on the environment, however a little-known fact is that the multi-trillion-dollar fashion industry is harmful to the environment in its own right.
Today’s fashion industry is unsustainable. In fact, it causes ten percent of global carbon emissions. In order to make polyester fibers, nearly 70 million barrels of oil each year is required.
These microfibers themselves take more than 200 years to fully decompose and much of this waste ends up washing up on beaches.
According to a study by the University of New South Wales, Australia, microfibers make up around 85 percent of the human-made debris that washes up on global shorelines.
Of course, this has huge consequences for the ocean’s wildlife. These fibers are easily consumed by small marine life and therefore have the potential to poison animals higher up the food-chain.
As gloomy as this sounds, there is opportunity for change. Scientists from all over the world are developing new forms of sustainable fashion, devoid of polyester fibers. Wooden clothes may not sound particularly appealing at first glance, however they might just be the future.
Finland is a forerunner in the sustainable fashion industry. Aalto University, is currently exploring the possibilities of a new clothing fiber manufacturing technology called ‘loncell’. Academics at the University claim it is more environmentally-friendly than cotton and the synthetic fibers which are predominantly used today.
‘Loncell’ can use recycled wood which would otherwise be wasted. In the forests of Eastern Finland the process of thinning is common practice, whereby small trees are felled in order to encourage more growth. This is an example of just one renewable source of wood for clothing production.
These clothes, however, are not just made from recycled wood: recycled newspaper, cardboard and old cotton textiles can also be used in the process.
The wood-based items have already had the nod of approval from several notable political figures. Finland’s First Lady Jenni Haukio wore a dress made from recycled trees at a recent state gala, and President Macron of France wore a scarf made of recycled materials on a visit to Finland.
In order for wooden clothes to become a thing of the future, these clothes need to be stylish. Professor Pirjo Kääriäinen of Aalto University remarked that ‘people want garments that look good and make them feel good, so there is no choice but for the design to be good.’