Government teams up with fashion to look at green clothes

Representatives of the rag trade and environmental NGOs met with the Government this week to look at ways to reduce the environmental impact of clothing throughout its life cycle.

Clothing creates a range of environmental, social and economic impacts similar to those involved in food production.

But while food miles, fair trade and composting are now high-profile buzz words for ethical consumers, the issues raised by clothing are often overlooked.

In 2006, UK clothing and textiles produced up to two million tonnes of waste, 3.1 million tonnes of CO2 and 70 million tonnes of waste water.

Clothing imports into the EU as a whole now account for 42% of the global market.

In the UK only 10% of our clothing is manufactured at home, the rest is imported.

Addressing this week’s gathering, Joan Ruddock, Minister for Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste, said: “Increasingly, consumers really care about the environment and the social impacts associated with clothing.

“And clothes, almost more than any other product, fill magazines and get column inches. Not only are consumers really getting their teeth into this, but fashion journalists are increasingly keeping pace with the green game.

“There are plenty of examples of people in the industry already seeing sustainability as an opportunity, not a threat. There are people taking an active role in ethical sourcing, designing and producing clothing throughout the supply chain.

“That’s why Defra is aiming to work collaboratively with the clothing and fashion industry to improve the sustainability of clothing.”

Speaking at the event, Katharine Hamnett, one of the industry’s most ethical and environmentally aware designers, said: “Sustainable clothing doesn’t have to be more expensive. It can be more affordable and it should be more affordable.”

Following this event, the clothing and fashion industry will be invited to be involved in developing the sustainable clothing roadmap coordinated by Defra. The roadmap examines all stages of clothing’s life cycle (from raw materials to end of life), charts the environmental and social impacts arising at each stage, and proposes ways of limiting those impacts where most effective.

Sam Bond

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