Technological Advances in the Sustainable Textile Industry

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 The growth of the sustainable fashion industry directly correlates to growth in the technology used to produce such products. Most clothing that is produced in a cheap and trend focused manner uses inexpensive materials. Often, the textiles used in this production are cotton and polyester, or in other words less environmentally conscious. Many companies and innovators are working to find ecologically conscious ways to produce fabrics, and methods of producing existing materials with less harm. 

One of the most controversial materials used in the production of textile goods is leather. PETA and various other environmental organizations have made frequent efforts to promote awareness of animal cruelty, and the production of animal leather. Beyond the effect on the animals slaughtered,  the process of “ turning skin into leather also requires massive amounts of energy and dangerous chemicals, including mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils, dyes, and finishes, some of them cyanide-based” (1). Clearly, our frequent usage of leather must be curbed in an effort to develop a more sustainable fashion industry. 

 In response to this ongoing issue, many startups and larger companies have begun using vegan leather as an alternative. These products are “from 100% natural materials in laboratories. For example Modern Meadow produces leather from yeast cells that are fermented in ways similar to beer making” (2). Many innovators are actively seeking more effective ways to produce vegan leather, given it does not have such longevity of use when compared to animal leather. 

Beyond the problem we face due to the unethical production of textiles, the fashion industry simply loses money due to the nature of the good. Some clothing items don’t sell well and so they are often trashed or gotten rid of. An article by CNN emphasizes that “the industry, valued at around $2.4 trillion, loses about $500 billion each year due to the lack of recycling and clothes that are thrown away before ever being sold, according to the UN” (3). The industry does not regulate itself and unless innovators are willing to work with larger companies to develop new strategies to make more effective usage of the goods we produce, we will continue to harm the enviroment. 

  1. https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/leather-industry/leather-environmental-hazards/
  2. https://eluxemagazine.com/fashion/when-technology-meets-sustainable-fashion/
  3. https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/27/business/technology-fashion-sustainability/index.htm

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