Clothing is a $3 trillion business that accounts for eight percent of the greenhouse gases and is worn every day. A seminar presentation held in Edward’s Auditorium at the University of Rhode Island on April 18 served to fill in some answers about the truth behind clothing.

From a childhood centered around National Geographic and environmental values, Summer Rayne Oaks graciously shared her experiences and wisdom. Oaks serves as an inspiration for environmental activists everywhere. Her life course and stomach took a twist when she came across sewage sludge attributable to clothing manufacturing, which triggered her to reconnect people with nature.

“How can I use fashion as a megathon to get people to protect the environment,” said Oaks. Clothing manufacturing is the oldest and largest industry in the world. Its impact is arguably just as pronounced. As consumers, the choices we make have a direct impact upon the environment. “Be the person that starts the change, it can become a movement,” said Oaks.

Among the animal kingdom, we are the only ones who put so much time and effort into choosing what to wear at such a large extent. In order to manufacture clothing, an incredible amount of energy is wasted and pollutants end up in the environment. “Taking the morale path should cross your mind,” said Oaks. This entails directly asking clothing manufacturers what chemicals they use in their products and their stance on sustainability.

“My whole north star in life is sustainability and connecting people back to nature,” said Oaks. The textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world and among the top energy consumers. Almost 100 million tons of fiber are produced annually in the clothes people wear. Additionally, the equivalence of eight million olympic sized pools become polluted each year to keep up with clothing manufacturing.

“As you go through your lives try to think about that,” said Oaks. “Reflect on who we are today and what we will become. Focus on the path that takes you there.” She spoke about future career paths and the broader impact we each may potentially make. She spoke about jobs that can be created to help combat the environmental problems burdening our planet.

“Waste is a design flaw,” said Oaks. “Look at nature where nothing is wasted, all pieces are recycled.” People can investigate into the clothing manufacturers and reveal what chemicals they use in the materials of average clothing. Shopping at thrift stores, trading clothing and only purchasing items that can be re-worn are small steps towards a more sustainable future.

“When you wear glasses and someone called you four-eyed, you can either sit in a corner and cry, or rock it,” said Oaks. With that being said, rock out your own fashion trend, sustainably. Dance to the beat of your own drum.