HUMAN EVOLUTION REQUIRES A FASHION (R)EVOLUTION
APRIL 25, 2018 MARCI ZAROFF
Gone are the days of shopping with reckless abandon. Consumers have made a colossal shift in consciousness, which I explore in my book, ECOrenaissance. Our global community is taking off their blinders to ask what’s in their food and more recently, what’s in their clothes. After all, what we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in our bodies.
Over 28 years ago, I began my career by co-founding the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (then known as Gulliver’s Living and Learning Center.) Today, IIN is considered the largest holistic nutrition program the world, in over 135 countries and with over 75,000 certified health coaches. My career journey brought me from food to beauty and, finally, to fashion. The more wisdom I collected along my career path, the more I began to connect the dots between food and fashion: we are not just what we eat, but also what we wear.
Fashion statistics are sobering. The global industry contributes 10% of the planet’s carbon impact, 20% of fresh water pollution, over 5% of the earth’s landfills, and demands over 3 trillion gallons per year of fresh water.
As these impacts become common knowledge, shoppers are beginning to ask, “Who made my clothes? Where and how are they being made? What’s in them?”
ECOfashion is the future of fashion. It’s so fulfilling to see the idea of no compromise come to fruition, as we can now unite what we consume with what we believe in. We don’t have to abandon affordability, style, comfort, or ethics at the expense of human and planetary health or social justice; we can have it all.
We are amidst a collective awakening of major retailers and brands. In order to stay financially sound and relevant amongst tech and social media-savvy newcomers, companies are scrambling to keep up. In fact, in the fashion and textile worlds, it’s no longer about staying ahead; it’s about not being left behind.
Transparency is the key ingredient — companies are abandoning a competitive mindset for collaborative approaches, readily providing their fiber and chemical strategies on their websites.
GOTS (The Global Organic Textile Standard), OEKO-TEX and Cradle-to-Cradle are a few certifications making waves in supply chain transparency. GOTS, in particular, is extra special because it tracks organic fiber all the way from the farm to the finished garment—meeting both environmental and social standards at every level of the supply chain.
What’s so important about organic fiber? Well, when it comes to cotton, certified organic cotton is grown without genetically modified seeds or toxic chemicals and uses 71% less water and 62% less energy than conventionally produced cotton. GOTS certified textiles are also free of chlorine bleach, formaldehyde, and heavy metals. And with 60% of a cotton plant going into our food system and 84% of American consumers now eating organic food, at least occasionally, and given that cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in agriculture, it is time we understand the interconnection of food and fiber—from farm to shelf to body. After all, our skin is our largest organ and primary organ for absorption.
The fashion industry certainly has a long way to go, but as someone who received looks of concern in the 1990’s at the very mention of the word “ECOfashion,” you can trust me when I say that the momentum has picked up exponentially. This week is Fashion Revolution Week, the perfect time to pause and ask questions about your clothes. Inaugurated on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, Fashion Revolution aims to help raise consumer awareness around one of the world’s major sources of air and water pollution and human injustice. It’s time we collectively design a new reality, wear the change, and transform the fashion industry into a source for looking, feeling and doing good.