We Have No Idea How Bad Fashion Actually Is for the Environment

My journey down the rabbit hole started with this fact: “The global fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world.” You’ll hear this repeated at panels, on blogs and news sites, and anywhere else sustainable fashion is being discussed.

Intuitively, it sounds true. We’ll start with the fact that an estimated 50 million tons of polyester — a petroleum product — were produced in 2015. Growing cotton, especially if it involves pesticides, herbicides, and oil-powered machinery, is also a large carbon emitter (though not as large as polyester). And then there is the journey the multiple components of one garment take around the world on oil-gulping ships to be spun in one country, then sewn in another factory powered by coal and generators, then finished in yet another, buttons and zippers from another continent, packaged, and shipped to stores, briefly worn, tossed into the landfill (which emits the potent greenhouse gas methane), or shipped back around the world to secondhand markets.

But when I searched for the source, I couldn’t find it. 

Conscious Consumerism Is a Lie

As a sustainable lifestyle blogger, my job is to make conscious consumerism look good. Over the course of four years Instagramming eco-friendly outfits, testing non-toxic nail polish brands, and writing sustainable city guides, I became a proponent of having it all—fashion, fun, travel, beauty—while still being eco-friendly. So when I was invited to speak on a panel in front of the UN Youth Delegation, the expectation was that I’d dispense wisdom to bright young students about how their personal purchasing choices can help save the world.

I stood behind the dais in a secondhand blouse, recycled polyester tights, and a locally made pencil skirt, took a deep breath, and began to speak. “Conscious consumerism is a lie. Small steps taken by thoughtful consumers—to recycle, to eat locally, to buy a blouse made of organic cotton instead of polyester—will not change the world.”

The Difference Between $50 Sneakers & $500 Ones

We demand a lot from our sneakers: We want them to protect our feet during marathons, and cushion them as we run errands. We want them to wick away odor and match our outfits. We want them to last forever, and to communicate our values and identity: into fashion or couldn’t-care-less; hip-hop or pop; athlete, professional, or professional athlete.

But no matter how many things you’re able to say with a pair of sneakers, they seem to only exist in three price categories: Below $50, around $100, and way above $100. To find out why, we talked to three experts: Suzette Henry, director of the sneaker design school Pensole’s materials lab; Sébastien Kopp, co-founder of the sustainable and fair trade French-favorite Veja, and Joseph Zwillinger, co-founder and vice president of sustainability and innovation at sneaker brand Allbirds. As it turns out, there’s a reason for this (and, contrary to what you might think, the more you pay doesn’t necessarily mean the more you get). 

Barring a massive change in how we fish, there won’t be any sushi left by 2048

These days, if you’re lucky enough to find yourself at a Michelin-starred restaurant, it’s an almost foregone conclusion that the ingredients will be sourced locally, seasonally, and sustainably.

But amid all the devotion to local terroir, foraging, heirloom produce, and pasture-raised meat from coddled livestock and fowl, there’s one segment of the restaurant industry that remains stubbornly in opposition to the slow food movement. In fact, when it comes to seafood, many of the world’s best restaurants fly in an endangered species for its patrons to feast on a nightly basis.

Witchcraft is the perfect religion for liberal millennials

What ties together crystals, feminism, polyamory, lapsed Catholicism, and tarot cards?

Besides being increasingly of the moment, they are all related to modern witchcraft, a movement that is being propelled out of the forest and into the mainstream. The hook-nosed, broom-riding, pointy-hat-wearing, cackling witches of yore have transfigured into hip, feminist, millennial women with slick websites and soothing advice on manifesting your dreams. Instead of a bubbling cauldron filled with eye of the newt, they’re slinging essential oils seeped with wild herbs.

FAST FASHION IS CREATING AN ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS

Visitors who stepped into fashion retailer H&M’s showroom in New York City on April 4, 2016, were confronted by a pile of cast-off clothing reaching to the ceiling. A T.S. Eliot quote stenciled on the wall (“In my end is my beginning”) gave the showroom the air of an art gallery or museum. In the next room, reporters and fashion bloggers sipped wine while studying the half-dozen mannequins wearing bespoke creations pieced together from old jeans, patches of jackets and cut-up blouses. This cocktail party was to celebrate the launch of H&M’s most recent Conscious Collection. “H&M will recycle them and create new textile fibre, and in return you get vouchers to use at H&M. Everybody wins!” H&M said on its blog.

It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s a gross oversimplification. 

Can A Music Festival Be 100 Percent Sustainable? 7 Creative Ways Festivals Are Getting Close

In total, U.K. festivals produce 21,800 U.S. tons of carbon emissions per year, and that doesn't even include attendees and artists' travel to the festival, which could be an additional four times that. They also produce 26,000 U.S. tons of waste every year, and recycling rates are typically below 32 percent. It doesn't have to be this way. Festivals large and small all over the world are experimenting with ways to cut down on waste, support local and organic agriculture, and lower their carbon footprint.

This Entrepreneur Has A Surprising Way To Make Fashion More Ethical

Despite New York City's overabundance of options for donating and recycling old clothing—charity thrift shops, textile recycling at farmers markets, bins right inside apartment buildings—residents throw out 200,000 tons of clothing and textiles each year. And it's a big problem—landfilled textiles can leach chemicals into the groundwater, release the potent climate change gas methane, and never fully biodegrade, especially if they are synthetic fibers, which are essentially plastic filaments made from oil. Incinerated textiles can also release toxins into the air.

If Your Jeans Are Cheaper Than This, You've Got A Problem

I guess it stems from the fact that I consider myself a feminist. And it would be hypocritical to talk about women’s empowerment, but not support the women bent over their sewing machines for 12 hours a day making my fashion (as critics of Beyoncé’s allegedly sweatshop-made fitness line have pointed out). Then again, I’m not trying to spend my entire budget on one pair of $275 premium, Japanese, indigo-dyed, raw selvedge jeans. Is there a sweet spot between sustainable status-symbol jeans that cost hundreds, and the cheapest of the cheap?

The Harsh Reality Of When Mass Retailers Find Indie Designers

It’s an up-and-coming designer’s dream. You’re laboring over handcrafting earrings or oils or needlepoint in your apartment to sell at flea markets and on your Etsy shop, and then you receive a single order from a retailer (one you’ve actually heard of!) for more units than you’ve sold in the entire time you’ve been making them. Validation! 

Then…panic.

Is This New Housing Trend Bad For 20-Somethings?

I’m at Pure House, a so-called millennial commune in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. It’s one of several millennial communes currently operating or under construction in New York City. One commune in the Financial District, The Loft, seems to revolve around drinking and other bro-tastic activities. Pure House sounds a bit more like me. It offers the opposite: fresh juice, discounts on activities like yoga at its event space in Williamsburg, plus spontaneous dinners and brunches in a positive community of like-minded, creative people. 

Sex, Drugs, And V-Neck Tees: Inside The Cult Of American Apparel

A CEO who has run into so many PR disasters and has a dismal financial track record? Of course he should be fired. But then, American Apparel is unlike any other fashion brand out there, as I found out after speaking with current and former employees, Dov Charney’s supporters, and Charney himself. Because, despite the endless lawsuits, the sexts he allegedly sent employees, the viral video of the ex- CEO flaunting his penis in front of staff, the cult of Dov Charney lives on at AA.