With the strong heat wave hitting Europe along with the fashion weeks and the trend of fast-fashion consumption among young people, we thought it was vital to raise awareness of the fact that this consumption contributes negatively to global warming, although this subject is not directly related to disinformation know-how.
Each year millions of tonnes of clothes are produced, worn, and thrown away. Every second, the equivalent of a rubbish truck load of clothes is burnt or buried in the landfill. The fashion industry is one of the major contributors of plastic microfibres entering our oceans. To solve the problem, we must reinvent fashion itself and our consumption habits.
Fashion plays a major role in the global economy with annual revenues totaling over $1 trillion. However, it is also one of the most resource-intensive industries and one of the largest polluting in the world. Some brands have already announced that they are aiming to become 100% ‘ circular’ by 2030.
HOW DOES THE FASHION INDUSTRY POLLUTE THE PLANET?
Large numbers of the materials that are commonly used today in the fashion industry are resource-intensive.
Cotton, for example, requires a huge amount of water. It takes almost 3,000 litres of water to make one cotton t-shirt. Synthetic materials like polyester are made from non-renewable resources such as oil. Polyester has become the most widely used material in the textile industry. It is appreciated for its elasticity, its lightness, and its low absorbency, which allows perspiration to be easily evacuated.
Problem: When washing, plastic microfibers are released into rivers and oceans. Every year, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles are released into the sea. This invisible plastic pollution is ingested by small marine organisms and contaminates the entire food chain. It causes digestive problems and appetite disorders in infected animals.
Then there are other materials, like viscose, which on a massive scale is leading to deforestation and is therefore affecting the habitats of endangered species and ancient trees.
In addition, the fashion sector’s carbon footprint is estimated at 1.2 billion tons of CO2, or about 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. If purchasing trends continue, this share will reach 26% in 2050!
These projections are explained in particular by the explosion in sales and the growing use of polyester, which emits three times more CO2 than cotton during its life cycle. Not to mention transportation: a pair of jeans can travel up to 65,000 km before arriving at the point of sale. When you know that Zara renews its shelves 24 times a year…
HOW LARGE IS THE PROBLEM OF WASTE, PARTICULARLY WATER WASTE, IN THE CLOTHING SECTOR AND HOW CAN IT BE REDUCED?
Waste is one of the most pressing problems in the fashion industry. 100 billion products are being pumped out of factories every year. We now buy more clothes than we have ever bought, before disposing of them in the bin. In North America alone, consumers throw out what is the equivalent of the Empire State building in weight every year. This waste is then either being burnt or going to landfills which is not a sustainable way of doing business.
If you have to burn your product in order to dispose of it, that’s extremely inefficient, and it shows you’re not using your resources well. That desperately needs to change. We can’t keep filling up our landfills either, or sending our second-hand clothes to other countries, because there is eventually going to be no space left. Waste is our collective responsibility and it has to be addressed quickly.
Water waste is particularly an important issue. One of the most striking examples of this is the Aral Sea which was once the world’s fourth-largest lake but has essentially dried up largely because of cotton farming.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
Climate change is here – and it’s accelerating. Over 100 billion products are being pumped out of factories every year and many of those products are made from synthetic materials that take hundreds of years to biodegrade. But we don’t have hundreds of years to address climate change so we need to tackle unsustainability in the fashion industry now.
As such, It’s crucial that our society moves toward researching and developing more sustainable materials to start with because it’s critical to the future of the fashion industry as well as the planet. We need products that could be:
- used more
- made to be made again
- made from safe and recycled or renewable inputs
Also as individuals, we need to think about sustainability when shopping. Ask yourself why are you buying a product? Do you really need it, do you know who has made it, and do you trust that the brand that has made it has done it the right way? it’s fundamental that we favor environmentally responsible clothing brands and those who adopt a sincere ecological approach: upcycling, fair trade, relocation, recycled materials, etc.).
Together we can make fashion circular and help tackle the root causes of global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.
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