The fast-paced, highly-disposable nature of fast fashion has a huge impact on climate change. According to British MP and Environmental Audit Committee chairwoman Mary Creagh, if current clothing consumption continues, fashion “will account for more than a quarter of our total impact on climate change by 2050… Doing nothing is not an option."
Here are 5 ways fashion affects climate change – and what we can do about it.
1) Plastic fibres threaten marine life
According to The Guardian, 85% of the human-made material found in the ocean actually comes from clothing. Fabrics like polyester are made of plastics and, when washed, they shed microfibres into the ocean. Which is why it’s important to look out for these fabrics.
2) Fashion has a colossal carbon footprint
A T-shirt's carbon footprint is about 6kg – 20 times its weight. And it’s estimated 1,074 billion KWh of electricity is required to produce the annual global textile production of 60 billion kg of fabric. Much of this comes from our clothes travelling the globe. So consider buying local instead, to minimise travel distance.
3) Pesticides poison the planet
Conventional cotton is considered one of the world's dirtiest crops. It covers just 2.4% of cultivated land but uses 6% of global pesticides and 16% of insecticides. This can have disastrous effects on the natural world, creating toxic runoff that pollutes the water supply. We can make a big difference by choosing sustainable fibres like organic cotton.
4) Waste is clogging the land
Fashion’s overproduction is rampant, which is why retailers like H&M discard millions of dollars’ worth of unworn clothes. We’re also buying 400% more clothes than we were 20 years ago and throwing many garments away after one wear. To combat this, we can buy less, buy better and wear our clothes more.
5) Fashion’s impact hits home
75% and 80% of a garment’s impact comes from washing and drying at home. So washing our clothes less means reducing impact. Handwashing is ideal and – with water heating accounting for about 90% of energy used – so is cold water. By doing 4 out of 5 loads in cold water, we can cut 32.5 kg of CO2 emissions each month.