Cycle 2, Research Round 1 - How Does the Textile Industry Impact Society?

Hello again everyone!

This week I am going to look into some of the environmental impacts that the industry has on society. These range from impacts on resources and resource depletion, fossil fuels and pollution, the general environment, and the sustainability of the industry.

Note: some of this research is quite blunt and horrific. If you are uncomfortable hearing about animal abuse and mistreatment, please do not read the section titled "Animal Abuse".

How It Harms the Environment

i. Pesticides. These are used by farmers to protect textiles during growth. They are chemical compounds used to kill a variety of pests, ranging from insects to rodents and fungi. However, these are extremely dangerous. Not only can they harm wildlife, they can easily contaminate other products and spread to the food we consume. These chemical compounds are toxic to other organisms, humans included. (1,2)

ii. Chemicals used for bleaching and colouring. These chemicals we use can damage not only the environment, but they can also harm our health. The effects of bleach are debated; some claim bleach has no harmful effect on the environment and others say it is extremely dangerous. Some say that factories utilizing bleach emit toxins into the air during ventilation and exhaustion, and they release bleach frequently into the local water. It is also said that bleach is a carcinogen for wildlife. However, none of this is proven or unproven. (1,3,4)

iii. Landfills. Especially with today's age of 'trendy' clothing, people frequently throw away old clothing they consider unsuitable. As such, there is a rapidly increasing amount of textiles in our landfill sites, which are filling up. In 2014 more than 16 million tons of textile waste was generated in the United States alone, and the average American discards approximately 80 pounds of used clothes. Landfills are major air pollutants, sacrifice approximately 30 to 300 species of wildlife per hectare of land they take up, pollute the groundwater by releasing highly toxic "leachate", and degrade soil fertility. (1,5,6)
Image result for landfills(12)

iv. Water. Textiles consume an exorbitant amount of water during their creation process. One t-shirt takes around 2,700 litres of water. That's three years worth of drinking water. Not only do they consume significant amounts of water in the creation process, fashion industries are also known to be a major polluter of our fresh water. This is due to toxic chemicals being washed into our waterways, then entering the ecosystem. Much of this is due to unsustainable cotton farming. The example below shows how unsustainable cotton farming caused the loss of the Aral Sea in central Asia. (1,7)

Aral Sea - water and fashion(7)

v. Animal exploitation. Whether for fur, leather, wool, feathers, animals are heavily exploited for many peoples' everyday clothing. Textile industries will farm animals for their profitable qualities and ruthlessly harvest these 'benefits'. Documentations of cows being skinned alive and dying before even reaching their slaughter have been readily found. For sheep, some undergo a process called "mulesing", or the removal of wool-bearing skin surrounding the buttocks. Not only are cows and sheep inhumanely abused and exploited for human clothing, many animals such as alpacas, angora rabbits, camels, cashmere goats, angora goats, Tibetan antelopes, and mulberry silkworms are, too. That isn't all, though; animals like deer, pigs, buffalo, horses, goats, alligators, dogs, snakes and more are killed for us, too. These animals are raised, trapped, mutilated, and killed in horrific manners just for the benefit of attractive or trendy clothing. Animals raised for fur are usually killed by gas, strangulation, neck breaking, or anal electrocution. Over 4 million animals are hunted, trapped, and killed for fur each year in the United States. I would attach an image to show the gruesome nature of animal exploitation, but it is truly horrific. (1,8,9,10,11)

 

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Thank you for reading, everyone. I would like to go into more environmental impacts and methods we can choose to lessen these impacts in a later research round, too.

Citations
1 - http://www.fibre2fashion.com/i...n-environment?page=2
2 - http://www.who.int/topics/pesticides/en/
3 - http://factsaboutbleach.com/bl...the_environment.html
4 - https://www.livestrong.com/art...-on-the-environment/
5 - https://www.thebalance.com/tex...-and-figures-2878122
6 - https://sciencing.com/effects-...ronment-8662463.html
7 - https://goodonyou.eco/fashion-...he-thirsty-industry/
8 - http://www.onegreenplanet.org/...he-fashion-industry/
9 - http://kb.rspca.org.au/what-is...lternatives_113.html
10 - http://www.organiclifestylemag.../animal-textiles.php
11 - https://www.animalcrueltyexpos...s-used-for-clothing/
12 (image) - http://greenliving.lovetoknow...._Problems:_Landfills

Original Post

Hi Joanna,

Great round of research! I was actually just watching a documentary about the textile industry about a week ago, so I saw how much waste we create with clothes, and how new fashion amplifies the amount we throw away. People buy way too many clothes for what we really need, and its impact is devastating. I never realized though how ruthless textile industries are when exploiting animals. It shocks me, and I wonder why anyone would treat animals so horribly.

Here is a couple websites that discuss the environmental impacts of the textile industry, and what some are doing to reduce them:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1964887/

https://www.ecowatch.com/fast-...big--1882083445.html

Good luck!

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