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Sustainable Fashion: How Technology is Reducing Waste

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Alex Rivera

Chief Editor at EduNow.me

Sustainable Fashion: How Technology is Reducing Waste

Fashion has an enormous environmental footprint. From overflowing landfills to increased carbon emissions, its fast-paced cycles of trends have left an indelible mark on Earth.

Purchase of premium apparel made of eco-friendly materials helps minimize waste production. Furthermore, maintaining and selling garments extends their lifespan, thus cutting production needs down over time.

Textile Recycling

Textile recycling converts old fabrics into new ones, helping the environment while reducing pollution from clothing industries, which often contributes significantly to climate change. Textile waste comes in two categories: pre-consumer (fibers and yarns created during production processes); and post-consumer waste, such as clothing that has become unwearable due to damage, fashion trends or personal preferences.

Zero waste pattern cutting and draping are two strategies used to minimize textile production waste, respectively. Zero waste pattern cutting utilizes geometric concepts to arrange garment pieces onto fabric like Tetris blocks, using every inch efficiently without excess fabric being wasted. Draping uses similar principles but without needing sewing machines – both methods can effectively cut waste by up to 80-90%.

Reduce the environmental impact of textile production by opting for organic cotton, wool and leather products rather than synthetic ones made from fossil fuels that require years to decompose in landfills. Look out for certifications from Global Organic Textile Standard Leather Working Group Forest Stewardship Council when shopping to ensure high-quality, sustainable items.

Fiber-to-fiber recycling offers one sustainable approach for reducing textile industry waste: Repurposing materials used in clothing and other textile products into yarn. Technology in this space has rapidly advanced over recent years; some technologies may even already be operational. Mechanical recycling of pure cotton garments is already well established, while chemical recycling of polyester (used extensively in fast fashion garments) is close to commercialization. However, textiles composed of both natural and synthetic fibres cannot be recycled using current technology; thus requiring joint efforts between business leaders in the value chain and government to overcome barriers to textile recycling at scale.

Digital Printing

Digital printing has become an important element of the sustainable fashion movement. By eliminating steaming and washing processes used in traditional dyeing, textile printing, and screen printing processes, digital printing uses less chemicals while producing less waste – significantly cutting water use during printing production, fabric creation, shipping emissions emissions reductions. Graphics industries have already taken notice of digital printing’s benefits; now fashion brands too are looking for ways to produce and distribute their products more sustainably.

Dyeing and textile printing processes typically use massive volumes of water, often without being properly treated before being dumped into waterways. Digital printing technologies use significantly less water and energy compared to conventional methods, according to Kornit digital’s 2020 Impact and Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) Report.

Digital textile printing helps minimize the environmental impacts of fashion by eliminating fabric samples and overproduction, which accounts for roughly 30% of clothing produced by this industry and which then winds up being either thrown away or dumped into landfills. Digital textile printing technology offers another solution by matching supply with demand in on-demand printing technology that ensures supply doesn’t outstrip demand.

3D printing technology affords fashion enthusiasts and accessory designers an unprecedented opportunity to craft customized fashion items from sustainable, eco-friendly materials (Gebler et al., 2014). Previous researchers have explored this innovative technology for prototyping and customization purposes as well as on-demand design creation; however, none employed a zero waste philosophy to ensure a sustainable outcome. This study’s goal was to utilize design as research approach, which involved applying zero waste philosophy in fashion accessory creation process (Tania 2017). The outcomes are highly promising for sustainable fashion design creation.

Mobile Body Scanning

Fashion is one of the world’s largest business sectors but also one of the world’s most wasteful, accounting for 10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of water usage annually. Additionally, 92 million tons of textile waste is generated each year, the equivalent of filling an entire garbage truck each second!

Sustainability has long been secondary to style and profit in fashion industry; however, recently the industry is adopting technologies to reduce waste and make clothing more eco-friendly.

Body scanning technology utilizes a handheld device to digitally record measurements of an individual’s body so designers can create custom garments tailored specifically to them. It is more efficient and accurate than manual tape measurements; its use may even include head scanning for helmets or head-worn sports equipment and foot scanning which delivers tailored footwear (Netvirta 2022; TechMed3D 2020).

Mobile body scans can also improve online shopping experiences by minimizing returns. Customers can preview how a garment will look on them before making their purchase and therefore less fabric is wasted due to trial and error.

3D printing offers many other benefits for garment production as well. It allows designers to perfect garment details before production begins, further minimising trial-and-error and waste. 3D printers also use sustainable materials like natural latex and viscose fibers from renewable resources that produce less environmental impact, replacing virgin polyester fabrics which take years to break down with their high environmental impact and take over our planet’s resources.

Consumers can help reduce waste by purchasing clothing from sustainable brands, shopping secondhand and recycling old garments. Furthermore, consumers should select natural fabrics that are less toxic while supporting companies with ethical business practices like providing their workers a fair wage and safe working conditions.

Virtual Dressing

Fashion industry waste contributes significantly to global water consumption and carbon emission (Periyasamy et al. 2018b). Cheap clothing may lead to contamination of waterways, ocean microplastic pollution and land degradation (Periyasamy et al. 2018b).

Environmental concerns have driven industry to adopt sustainable strategies. New technological innovations help transition businesses from linear to circular models, optimize production and reduce waste.

Design and development processes are being overhauled to reduce environmental impact. 3D modeling and prototyping reduce fabric waste, digital pattern making and grading streamline manufacturing, while closed-loop production systems reduce energy, water, and chemical consumption. Sustainable materials like recycled fibers and organic cotton don’t necessitate as much water consumption or chemicals use.

As the fashion industry evolves, consumers must become more conscious in their purchasing choices. Avoiding virgin synthetics such as polyester is essential; these synthetics are derived from fossil fuels and take years to decompose. Instead, consider opting for recycled fabrics like wool and hemp or fabrics certified by Forest Stewardship Council, Global Organic Textile Standards or Leather Working Group certifications.

Though it may seem counterintuitive to use technology as an accelerator of waste, becoming more sustainable requires harnessing technology to increase efficiency and lower environmental impacts. Blockchain tech may one day make tracking clothing from source to end-use easier.

Shoppers can support brands that prioritize sustainability and fair wages for workers by shopping ethically, such as Girlfriend Collective and Indigo Luna; Stay Wild Swim and Outland Denim offer jeans made from upcycled materials; or eco-conscious activewear labels like Girlfriend Collective and Indigo Luna for activewear purchases or jeans from Stay Wild Swim and Outland Denim who source textiles from upcycling programs.

On-Demand Product Fulfillment

The fashion industry annually produces over 100 billion garments and, of these, 87% end up in landfill or an incinerator; only 1% can be recycled. To reduce environmental footprint, companies are designing garments to be made only when ordered – known as on-demand production; it reduces fabric storage needs while eliminating trial and error for production details digitally before production takes place; many brands also utilize virtual dressing technology that lets shoppers see how the garment will look before purchasing it, eliminating waste due to incorrect sizing as well as returning unwanted returns.

Reduce the impact of fashion by choosing eco-friendly materials such as organic and natural fabrics such as cotton and wool that have been produced without toxic chemicals. Some brands are even using regenerative agriculture practices in their production process to restore soil health and biodiversity; companies like North Face and Patagonia employ this practice by using regenerative cotton that requires 30% less water and land than conventional cotton plants while being grown alongside cover crops and diverse plants that enhance soil health and biodiversity.

Sustainable clothing brands should also ensure their workers receive fair wages and work in safe conditions, and be open about their production process and manufacturing locations so consumers can easily spot greenwashing.

Though fashion’s sustainability efforts still need improvement, individuals can make a difference by shopping from sustainable brands and selecting an easy-to-mix wardrobe made of high-quality materials that can be mixed and matched. Furthermore, following care instructions on clothing labels as well as mend or repair clothing when necessary to extend its life are all ways individuals can help.

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