Fast Fashion's Impact On Climate Change Is Huge – Here's What We Can Do About It

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 1 month ago | News

It's all very depressing, but the signs can still be great.

As part of the recent Climate Protest, we striked in Adelaide (where we're hanging out for Slow Fashion Festival) and Sydney, alongside thousands of students across Australia, to demand the government does something about the climate crisis.

The fast-paced, highly-disposable nature of fast fashion is having 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". Creagh goes on to point out that "three in five garments end in landfill or incinerators within a year – that's expensive fuel! Half a million tonnes of microfibres a year enter the ocean. Doing nothing is not an option."

Here are 5 of the ways fashion affects our planet – and what we can do about them.

1) Plastic fibres threaten our ocean

According to The Guardian, 85% of the human-made material found in the ocean actually comes from clothing. Many modern fabrics like polyester, nylon and acrylic are actually made up of plastics. Which means that when we wash those clothes, miniscule pieces of plastic tend to break off. These tiny microfibers are generally washed into the ocean, where they can cause serious damage to the marine environment. Which is why it’s important we're aware of clothes made from fabrics containing plastic.

2) Fashion has a colossal carbon footprint

According to Ethical.org, the carbon footprint of a tee is estimated to be about 6kg – or 20 times its own weight. In fact, it’s estimated that 1,074 billion KWh of electricity is required to produce the annual global textile production of 60 billion kilograms of fabric. And much of this carbon footprint comes down to the great distances that our garments must travel from place of production to our wardrobes. Consider supporting local labels, which have to travel less distance to get to us, and thus likely have a reduced carbon footprint.

3) Pesticides poison the planet

Conventional cotton crops are considered one of the dirtiest crops in the world. This crop covers just 2.4% of the world’s cultivated land but uses 6% of the world’s pesticides and 16% of insecticides. Which means conventional cotton tees can have disastrous effects on the natural world, creating toxic runoff that pollutes the water supply and can be lethal to both humans and animals. With this in mind, we can make a big difference by choosing sustainable fibres, such as organic cotton, instead.

4) Fashion has a serious waste problem

Overproduction is rampant in fashion, which is why retailers like H&M are discarding millions of dollars worth of unworn clothes. Furthermore, we’re now buying a staggering 400% more clothes than we were 20 years ago, and, on average, 30% of those garments are worn just once before they are thrown away. To combat this, we can all buy less and buy better, by supporting fashion labels with minimal waste supply chains.

5) Fashion’s footprint continues at home

Reports show that between 75% and 80% of our clothing's lifecycle impact comes from washing and drying in our own homes. With that in mind then, washing our clothes less means we can reduce our overall impact. Even washing our garments differently can have a positive effect. Handwashing is ideal where possible, but it has been estimated that about 90% of the energy used for washing clothes is actually for heating the water. Which means that by doing four out of five loads in cold water, we can cut down 32.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions every month. 

If you would like to attend the strike for climate action this Friday 20 September, Patagonia has created a directory of all planned strikes for climate action across Australia, so you can find your nearest one.

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