The fashion industry produces 10 percent of the world's carbon emissions, 20 percent of the world's wastewater, and 37 million tonnes of waste in the form of clothes that are thrown away. So combat this situation, companies have started to bring about changes in both their activities and technologies to make fashion greener.
When the world discusses reducing its carbon emission load, industries like power, transportation, steel and a few others are often brought up as being the dirtiest. However, it is often overlooked that the clothing industry contributes a whopping 10 percent of global carbon emissions annually.
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Apart from the emissions, clothing is only one of the major contributors to the global pile-up of trash. With fashion and clothing consumption not expected to decline any time soon, consumers are often left with the choice of looking good or saving the planet.
The problem with dirty fashion
While other industries are witnessing a revolution in terms of both technology and practices to reduce their carbon footprint, the clothing industry is slowly moving towards more sustainable practices as well. But the impact of the pollution and emission the industry produces is magnitudes more than the efforts currently being undertaken to combat them.
Clothing is one of the most polluting industries on the planet, as it accounts for 10 percent of all carbon emissions produced by human activity annually. These emissions come during production and shipping for the most part. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the carbon footprint of a single pair of jeans is 33.4 kilograms. For other types of garments, it can be considerably more.
It’s not just carbon that’s being released into the environment from clothes, plastics are as well. Clothing is one of the major sources of microplastics in the environment. Synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, acrylic, spandex and others, release microplastics when washed, disposed or thrown away. Studies estimate that nearly 35 percent of the microplastic content found in the oceans are from clothes.
The clothing industry also has a significant impact on water. The production of clothes requires massive amounts of water, but the byproduct is contaminated water. The industry as a whole is responsible for 20 percent of the global wastewater output. Water run-off from textile plants is toxic and hazardous, containing up to 72 chemicals in it due to the dyeing process.
Finally, clothing is responsible for filling up a significant portion of the world’s landfills. Less than 1 percent of all fabrics are recycled due to technological constraints. The consumption of clothes also presents a hurdle as it's expected that fibre production will reach 160 million tonnes by 2050, according to UK-based charitable organisation Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
What is being done?
Companies have started to bring about changes in both their activities and technologies to make fashion greener. A large number of companies have started to source their raw materials sustainably to reduce the potential environmental impact of the cultivation of fibre crops. Fashion companies have also started to introduce special clothing lines that are made from sustainably sourced material.
Another method being used by many companies is the usage of recycled plastic to make clothing, which is slowly being adopted by larger apparel brands.
Other sustainable practices are slowly catching up in the fashion industry, with some brands taking to upcycling waste to make textile products that produce no further waste. This includes repairing clothing or items so that they last longer, using older clothes for other purposes and investing in emerging technologies that can make recycling clothes easier.
(Edited by : Thomas Abraham)