Circular Fiber Initiative Pushes Sustainability in the Fashion Industry by Ciarra Wentzel, July 05 2017, 0 Comments

Photo from ellenmacarthur.org

This past Easter, New York City reached a high of 87 degrees, marking the holiday as the second hottest Easter in NYC. These warmer days have occurred during the unlikeliest months and it turns out that fashion plays a major part. The apparel industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and after oil, remains the second largest polluter.

In addition, the fashion industry uses large amounts of resources such as water, land and energy to grow fibers such as cotton. It's also been criticized for being wasteful, using toxic chemicals during the manufacturing process, mistreating animals and humans, and producing high volumes of "fast-fashion" items that consumers are encouraged to replace regularly. The quality over quantity motto has been squashed in recent decades—less is more no longer applies to trends and what's "in style". But this growing quantity consumption—approximately 73 million tons worldwide and is expected to grow nearly 4% a year through 2025—is proving to be too much for our planet. 

Luckily, the fashion world has recognized the effects that the industry has on the Earth and is making major changes. 

One important driver for these changes is The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which launched the Circular Fibres Initiative in May to help create a new global textiles system. The initiative is a continuation of the New Plastics Economy Initiative introduced back in 2016. The new campaign's purpose is to research and analyze the environmental impacts of the textile industry. They will release their initial findings in a report expected to be published in autumn 2017.

The announcement of the new Circular Fibres Initiative must have spoken loudly to the fashion industry. Since its launch, the sustainability movement has been growing and encouraging brands such as Nike and H&M to partner with The Circular Fibers Initiative—both corporate partners plan to use recycled materials for their products by 2030. In addition, brands such as Athleta, Eileen Fisher, Adidas and Gap vowed to manufacture their products from organic or recycled fibers.

Athleta, a Gap Inc. brand, has seriously taken the reins on being a frontrunner in the sustainability movement. On this year's Earth Day, the brand announced that 80% of all of its materials would be made from sustainable fibers by 2020. As a part of its vow towards sustainability, Athleta will be turning to recycled polyester and organic cotton for manufacturing purposes. 

Eileen Fisher has also pledged to use only organic cotton and linen in their products by 2020. The brand has plans to use wool from sheep that are humanely raised and to use Tencel, a more sustainable fabric, to replace synthetic fibers such as rayon.

Not to be left out, the athletic wear industry has also turned to sustainable fibers. Adidas has recently launched a sneaker made entirely of recycled plastic found in ocean water near the Maldives.

Addidas sneaker made from ocean plastics. Photo By: triplepundit.com

At this rate, thanks to The Circular Fibre Initiative’s influence, sustainable fiber could be the only fibers used all across the industry by 2030—which would be a big win for the industry. If just the introduction of the initiative convinced top fashion industry players to take on a role in sustainability, it will be interesting to see what the industry looks like after the initiative launches its first report later this year.