The Social & Environmental Impact of the clothes we wear

Fashion Revolution Week was created to mark the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, where 1,132 garment factory workers, mostly young women, were killed and more than 2,500 were injured. We remember and honour them by demanding that no one should die for fashion!

  • 80 Billion garments are produced each year with 400% more clothes being produced now compared to 20 years ago. A garment is worn 7 times on average, before being thrown away.


  • 35 kg of textile waste is generated per person per year in the US on average and only 20% to 30% of the clothes in most wardrobes are worn regularly.


  • 79 trillion litres of water are used by the fashion industry every year. 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year.


  • Synthetic fibres, such as polyester are plastic fibres, therefore non-biodegradable and can take up to 200 years to decompose. Synthetic fibres are used in 72% of our clothing.


  • Working 7 days a week for 16 hours per day makes 96 hours per week the normal working schedule for garment workers in manufacturing countries.

The environmental and social cost of the fashion industry forces us to rethink fast fashion and stresses the need for more sustainable business models and practices. Refuse, reuse and recycle!

What are our clothes made from?

  • Polyester

Polyester  (polyethylene terephthalate) is made from petroleum, air and water, it is not biodegradable and  it stays in landfills for several decades at least – and potentially for hundreds of years. Although it can be melted and reformed for recycling purposes.

  •  Nylon

One of the largest sources of microplastic pollution in the ocean are nylon fishing nets and textile fibers that wear off in the wash. Nylon is synthetic and not biodegradable and has a severely negative impact on the planet’s oceans.

  •  Viscose

The wood pulp that viscose is made from is manufactured by treating it with chemicals, which is then filtered and spun into a fine thread. Although it is partially synthetic it does biodegrade slowly. However, this is a highly polluting process and releases many toxic chemicals into the air and waterways surrounding production plants.  This fabric is also known as Rayon.

  •  Acrylic

Acrylic fabric is made with plastic threads and is not compostable or biodegradable, so it is likely to persist for a long time within the ground The plastic threads are made of a man made polymer fiber created from fossil fuels through a chemical process making it a terrible choice of fabric.

  •  Cotton

Although it is a natural fiber, Cotton is heavy on the use of pesticides, conventional cotton is far from environmentally friendly. Cotton is mainly produced in dry and warm regions, but it needs a lot of water to grow. However if 100% cotton, it does decompose.

  •  Organic Cotton

Organic cotton is a more sustainable solution. It is grown without pesticides from seeds that have not been genetically modified. Organic farming practices avoid using harmful chemicals, while using fewer resources and aiming for environmental sustainability.

  •  Bamboo

Bamboo textiles should be one of the most sustainable options for an eco-friendly closet. Bamboo grows rapidly, needs very little water, fertilizer, or pesticides, and sequesters a large amount of carbon dioxide, absorbing five times more carbon dioxide and 35% more oxygen than similar plants. However with the high demand for bamboo in China and globally it can have a negative impact on ecosystems, which can destroy the natural habitat of already vulnerable wildlife such as pandas. But it is a unique biodegradable material and can be 100% biodegraded in soil by microorganisms and sunlight which doesn’t cause any pollution.

  •  Linen

Linen is derived from the flax plant, its growth requires very little fertilizer, pesticide, and irrigation, up to 20% less energy and water is used producing linen. It is one of the most biodegradable fabrics in fashion history. It is strong, naturally moth resistant, when not dyed it is fully biodegradable.

  •  Hemp

Hemp is one of the most eco-friendly natural fabrics around. It’s high-yielding, its growth is healthy for the soil (thanks to a process called phytoremediation), and it requires much less water than cotton. The reason why hemp is so wonderful? Its is naturally sun protective and antimicrobial and it’s considered carbon negative raw material. It actually absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere!

  • Peace Silk

Silk is great for the skin, thanks to its antibacterial properties and great for the planet, due to it’s complete compostability. It’s produced by either ‘wild silkworms,’ or, in most cases, domesticated silkworms. The production of silk, in theory, shouldn’t harm the worms, but in some cases they end up dying when the silk is processed.  The silk industry has also been associated with slave labor.  If you’re looking for sustainable silk, peace silk is the way to go. Also known as ‘Ahimsa Silk’ this silk allows the silkworm to live a natural and humane life and eventually evolve into a butterfly - so no animals are harmed!

Will you check the labels the next time you buy clothes?

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