Buy less, buy better

Publish date 03-04-2023

by Elisa D’Adamo

By now we know that the textile and clothing industry is among the most polluting in the world, yet, as a society, we are unable to get out of the tunnel of fast fashion purchases: quick purchases made on the wave of the emotion of the moment, at small, with increasingly shorter times of use and permanence in our cabinets, but with heavy environmental costs.

In 2020, due to Covid, there was a drop in sales, but these have remained almost stable in the last ten years. The time of use of each garment, on the other hand, has progressively decreased by 36% and more than half of the garments are used for not even a full year.

Very interesting in this regard is a recent study conducted by the consumer association Altroconsumo, which explains how long we should wear an item of clothing to cushion its environmental impact. It seems that the shortest "ecological time" is that of recycled nylon. A surprise for many, including myself, who imagined natural fabrics of vegetable origin such as cotton, linen, hemp and those of animal origin such as wool, silk, leather more sustainable for the planet since they are natural and biodegradable. On the contrary, I thought synthetic fabrics such as nylon, polyester, elastane were more polluting because they were obtained from petroleum-derived polymers.

The fact that emerges is that each fabric has a story of its own and that to define the sustainability of a product it is necessary to consider all the steps and impacts throughout its life cycle. Analyzing 18 different materials used in the textile industry, the most sustainable fabric turns out to be recycled nylon which is used as a "zero point", a term of comparison for the others.

Elisa d’Adamo

NP Gennaio 2023


How long the various materials should be used to lower their environmental impact

• nylon: 4 months

• polyester: 1 year and 2 months

• synthetic leather: 1 year and 2 months

• hemp: 1 year and 9 months

• viscose 1 year and 11 months

• linen: 2 years

• cotton: 4 years and 2 months

• wool: 10 years and 4 months

• silk: 16 years and 3 months

• skin: 23 years and 9 months


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