We (hopefully) all know about how bad climate change is and it’s affecting the planet. We (hopefully) all know that fast fashion is extremely bad. But how do they link? How does the fashion industry contribute to climate change?
Well I’m here to answer just that!
The fashion industry severely contributes to climate change. It emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined which is 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions. It may not sound like a huge amount but it really is when you think of all the industry’s out there.
For those who don’t know, a carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of activities of a particular individual, organisation or community.
In 2015 the historic Paris Agreement was created which committed almost every country (200 in total) in the world to work towards limiting climate change with an aim to prevent global temperatures rising above 2 degrees (Celsius) higher than it already is, they aim for it not to go above 1.5 degrees. It was created to strengthen the global response to the threat of the situation and to also help countries deal with the impacts of the rising temperatures. By signing it, it means the countries are committed to cut their greenhouse emissions and pollution over time. In order for this to come to life then greenhouse emissions would have to fall by 45% by 2030 and eventually be at zero by 2050.
There is so much evidence which shows that the Earths temperature is increasing, and it’s predicted that in 2020 the temperature could increase by a whopping 0.5 degrees which, again, may not sound a lot but it can do a lot of damage. All of this extra heat reduces snow cover and sea ice which causes sea levels to rise, intensifies heavy rainfall and can potentially affect habitats of animals and plants. We have definitely seen seasonal temperature extremes.
With most of the world being on lockdown it has meant that many places have had reduced pollution levels due to less vehicles on the road and many factories no longer working. All of this is amazing and I truly hope that once this is all over, people become more conscious of the environment and pollution. I highly doubt this will happen but I am hopeful!
Anyway, you’re probably wondering how all this links to fashion… well…
With the industry being pretty much the largest contributer of carbon emissions it means that there is a lot of pressure for them to set an example. Fashion houses and companies are gonna have to cut their emissions by such a huge amount in order to make an impact. I know a lot of places are slowly adopting more sustainable practises but it is hard because they care about making profit at the end of the day and keeping consumers happy and more often than not, sustainable methods are more expensive.
Stella McCartney is leading the way by making changes all throughout the textile production chain. They use renewable energy in their offices and warehouses, use as much organic material as much as they can, are researching for new sustainable materials and they recycle all the textiles that they can. The brand is constantly trying to improve and I hope that others will see this as a wake up call. This brand is very well known so they are really leading the way for luxury brands.
I know of so many sustainable smaller brands, such as Lucy and Yak (who I mention all the time), who are slow fashion brands and promote sustainability so much through their social media and online presence but this doesn’t filter up to the high end stores and brands. There’s a lot of high-street shops that say their being sustainable when behind the scenes they’re not, they’re not a transparent brand, so I hope that Stella McCartney’s methods help to create a more environmentally friendly fashion industry.
It is estimated that two-thirds of the climate impact in a garments lifetime comes at the raw materials stage because of the amount of emissions that are released, so if we improved the way that polyester and cotton are produced then this could have a massive impact.
Processing polyester is highly intensive with approximately 46.1 million tonnes of the material being produced in 2014 which released about 650 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. This apparently accounts for 40% of the fashion industry’s yearly emissions, which makes sense because the majority of clothing is made from polyester.
Cottons carbon footprint may be lower but the fertiliser used still releases dangerous gases, and just growing the crop is very water intensive. It takes approximately 3,700 litres of water to make just one pair of jeans, from growing the cotton all the way to the final product in the shop. This equates to approximately 33.4kg of carbon.
The industry as a whole uses about 93 billion cubic metres of water which is enough to meet the consumption of 5 million people. Now think of those people in third world countries who don’t have easy access to water….
All the energy used in the raw materials stage, manufacturing, transporting, packaging and selling all contribute to the emissions footprint. The climate impact doesn’t just stop at the shop.
At some point, all clothing ends up in landfill unfortunately. Very little of it is recycled. When fashion is incinerated (which many brands do to unsold stock) it releases carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane gas into the atmosphere. In 2015 it was reported that the fashion industry was accountable for 5% of manmade greenhouse gases with 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide being released. This percentage continues to grow every year as consumption continues to grow.
We keep buying more and more clothing, wearing them fewer times, repairing them less so throwing them away sooner. We really need to change the way that we produce and consume clothing.
A lot of people are not taking the climate issue seriously and think it a hoax despite the growing evidence. I think a big part of this is because it’s not gonna affect the older generations, it is probably gonna really affect my generation and all those below me. Lets be honest, a lot of people are selfish so if something isn’t gonna affect them so they don’t care. I’ve seen in the news about all the strikes and have attended one myself and it’s mostly young people because we care about our future!
I really wish people were taking this as seriously as they are taking the coronavirus situation. While we may not know exactly what is gonna happen, it’s most likely not gonna be good.
Over the last 3 posts, I have probably overloaded you with information but it’s all important stuff that we need to know about and take seriously! My next post is gonna be solutions and how your wardrobe can be more sustainable so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Has any of this changed your view on fashion? I’d love to know your opinion on all this!
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