the movement du jour. In response, companies are finding ways to green theirbusiness models. Increasingly, consumers expect and demand it of their favoritebrands. Any business can take steps to reduce its footprint to appease consumers(green washing), but successful firms will turn sustainability into competitiveadvantage. For these firms in the apparel industry, there are numerous opportunitiesto save the planet while saving cash and other resources.
Impact of the Industry
The apparel industry in the United States is a $345B a year market. In 2007,Americans purchased 20.1 billion articles of clothing, 95% of which was madeelsewhere and imported(AAFA, 2007). The benefit of keeping clothing and othertextiles out of the waste stream is twofold: reduction in landfill space required as wellas a reduced need for resource-hungry materials such as cotton or polyester. Eachyear, every American discards an average of 68 pounds of textiles per year. Despitegrowth in the resale sector of 5% per year, research shows that 85% of discardedclothing ends up in the landfill(Claudio, 2007). To determine the true impact clothingmakes on the environment, one must take into account the entire life cycle of thegarment. To keep prices low, the cycle begins in the US with subsidized cotton and isthen shipped overseas to be assembled by workers who make an average of 15 centsper hour in countries ranging from China to Bangladesh. Once complete, thegarment is then shipped back to the states for sale, having traveled approximately14,625 miles before it hits the store shelves(NatGeo, 2008). The fashion industry issecond only to agriculture in water usage, not to mention the 25% of the world’spesticides that it uses. All of this before the item reaches the consumer and themajority of the impact made by clothing will occur after purchase(Earth Pledge,2009).