Since the General Assembly of the United Nations established it in the year 1972, on June 5th we celebrate the World Environment Day; a date destined mainly for awareness on the environmental problems that (terrifyingly high) it drags and the urgent need to find solutions.
The overconsumption of plastic, climate change, pollution, drought, deforestation... are only a few of the problems that we must face. Problems that affect not only the environment but our own health as well.
The truth is that, although it is a topical issue, it may seem that we don’t always give it the attention or the importance it really deserves or that we don’t internalize it enough.
Information is power; power of awareness in this case, or so we intend in OA. That’s why we’ve extracted some objective information about some of the environmental problems that leave at least us, breathless:
Did you know that...?
- Only in 2017, Spain exported more than 302,000 tons of plastic waste
- Only 30% of plastic waste is recycled in Europe.
- Most of the waste in Spain ends up in dumps and incinerators, which are far from being a renewable and clean source of energy
- Between 1970 and 2012, the fauna composed of birds, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles decreased by 50%
- 13 million hectares of forest disappear every year
- Since the end of the 19th century, the average global temperature has increased by almost 1ºC
- Since 1990, global CO2 emissions have increased by almost 50%
- United Nations estimates that by 2050 more than half of the population will suffer from water shortages
- More than 270 marine species have become entangled in plastic waste and 240 have ingested them
- Environmental pollution has higher mortality rates than tobacco, causing 8.8 million deaths worldwide, 800,000 only in Europe. Only in Spain, air pollution causes 20,000 premature deaths per year
- Desertification affects more than 1 billion people
- The WHO affirms categorically that pollution causes cancer, attributing to this cause 223000 deadly lung tumors per year.
- In Spain about 2 million tons of pollutants are discharged into the water every year
What about the numbers of the fashion industry?
From the dyeing of the fabrics to the finishes, through the printing or the infinite processes required by a garment, the wide variety of chemical products used by the textile industry in its production chain results in wastewater that, in addition to being toxic, pollutes an important part of the waterways of the whole world.
This is aggravated by the fast fashion trend that fashion industry is following; a concept that includes both the mass production and the consumerist attitude of its users and the low cost of garments, that translates into more toxic substances, more than minimum wages and a quality that leaves all to be desired.
We talk about brands that make eight to ten collections per year, stores with more than one mini-season per week and garments designed to last in our wardrobe less than five weeks before we get rid of them.
Here’s some info:
- Between the year 2000 and 2015 100000 million pieces of clothing have been produced annually
- The lack of recycling and the lack of use of clothing leads to a loss of 430 million euros per year
- After oil, the textile industry is the most polluting industry on the planet
- It is very likely that the clothes you are wearing contain toxic substances. It is more than likely that the leather bag you carry on contains chrome.
- The fashion industry is responsible for 20% of toxic discharges to rivers and seas and 10% of CO2 emissions
- The production of a t-shirt requires 2500 liters, a figure that, compared to the more than 10,000 liters of water needed for jeans, seems practically nothing
- The production of garments and their transport produces 8% of the emissions of greenhouse gases around the world
- Every second a textile waste truck is thrown, releasing a quantity of microfibers to the ocean that would amount to more than 50000 million plastic bottles
- Cotton plantations account for 25% of the pesticides that are used worldwide
What about leather industry?
In leather industry, the levels of pollution as a consequence of chromium and other chemical substances in the tanning process stand out, as well as the subhuman working conditions of the workers and the effects of these chemicals on their health and life expectancy.
Chemical substances used by tanneries can alter the hormonal and nervous systems of those who manipulate them and live with them. Among them are hardly biodegradable compounds such as chromium (III) and even (VI), a proven human carcinogenic.
Leather waste produces more than 150,000 tons per year worldwide. Most of the leather comes from countries such as India, where 90% of workers in factories die before the age of 50.
In the city of Hazaribagh, in Bangladesh, in particular, tanneries, whose workers include 10-year-old children, discharge around 22,000 cubic liters of toxic substances daily into the Buriganga River. There we can find, among others, sulfuric acid, chromium and lead.
Among the most common health issues of workers, whose labor rights are mostly non-existent and whose salary does not correspond to one-tenth of their work, are respiratory issues, skin diseases and amputations due to occupational accidents to which they are exposed daily for not being provided with any type of suitable clothing that protects them.
It all adds up. The responsibility is ours.
We tend to believe that the change is not in our hands, but the truth is that it all adds up and, without a doubt, unity is strength. But, what can we do to face environmental problems? Here in OA we have some suggestions:
- Take a chance and support new initiatives destined to change an environmental reality whose prognosis is rather dark.
- Change our daily bad habits and opt for more environmentally friendly options, for example:
- Opt for the use of public transport or means such as the bicycle
- Reject unnecessary plastic, such as the food we find laminated in the supermarket. In any case, use recycled cardboard.
- Consume local products
- Save energy when using appliances
- Unplug chargers from the mains when not in use
- Save on the water we use daily
- Consume with awareness and be aware of what our decisions imply, here or on the other side of the worlD
- Recycle and reuse materials
- Educate children (and not only) in respect to the environment
In the fashion industry, we also appeal to conscience:
- Have you ever thought about how many times you put on a garment? Is it really worth having so many if you take into account the environmental impact of its manufacture? Do you really need it?
- Have you ever considered how it is possible that some major corporations reduce so much the cost of their clothes or articles? The numbers don’t come out. It is impossible to sell a t-shirt at € 4.99. Or, in other words: it is sure that someone is paying a very expensive price for it on the other side of the world.
Some good habits to promote slow fashion can be the second-hand market, a great environmental ally, and consume brands that are committed to a production that respects the environment and the production of quality garments and accessories designed to be durable.
Some slow fashion suggestions? The second-hand market, opting for brands that are committed to a production that respects the environment, consuming products made with certified materials and whose durability and quality are a plus, etc.
We can only repeat one of our maxims: "we are our choices". And, as far as to environmental issues, our decisions affect our future and the present of many others.
If we don’t do it, who will do it?