Measuring Fashion Environmental Impact Report Inspires for an Action

By now we all know that fashion industry is the 2nd biggest contributor to the World’s pollution — including climate impact, water use, and overall waste. This is the industry we live and breath, full of creativity, innovation and beauty. If you are reading this article, it means you are probably not feeling indifferent about it. I mean, you are directly playing role in it by wearing clothes every day, right? We talk about it a lot these days, there’s so much buzz in the press about sustainability, but what about taking an action ourselves to generate some meaningful results? I hope the facts below will inspire you.

An eye-opening report was issued this past week by ClimateWorks Foundation and Quantis and was a true nightmare to read.

One of the biggest takeaways is that the fashion industry is contributing to the whopping 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, which directly affects global warming. This is a very alarming percentage! For example, global transportation sector contributes to 14%. I repeat, it’s transportation — including planes, ships, trains, cars etc. How come fashion emissions are more than half of that?! Well, we have to face the truth: our $6 H&M and Forever21 printed tee we casually bought for our 5-day trip to the Caribbean directly contributed to the global warming. The fact is that ever-changing fast fashion trends and our unconscious shopping habits increase the amount of clothing bought per capita which made this sector’s climate impact grow 25% within about a decade. If this is not a wake-up call, then what is?!

Another huge area of concern in the fashion production is fabric dyeing and finishing, adding up to 36% of the sector’s all carbon footprint. NRDC’s Clean by Design program has focused on this issue for more than five years. Read through their project report to learn about opportunities for climate change, water and chemical use reduction that can actually save companies money. Even there are now more than 100 fabric mills around the world take part in Clean by Design initiatives, there are thousands and thousands of more manufacturers are still to join. Without top-down shifts within global brands and fast fashion retailers, the majority of the mills won’t move a finger.

The report suggests that global apparel brands, young designers, non-profit organizations, policy people, and all of us, the customers can contribute to the decrease of the industry’s impact on the environment, whether it is rethinking how we use energy for production, shifting our consumption habits, or designing products with the end in mind, creating a circular economy of fashion. Each phase of apparel and footwear lifecycle need to be accessed and adjusted to specific sustainability initiatives in order to make a meaningful change start to happen.

WHAT EXPERTS SAY:

“We knew fashion’s impact was major, but we didn’t have the exact science-based metric view of what this really meant. This study enables us to answer some of these outstanding questions, bust some of our collective assumptions, and to provide guidance to those committed to act.”

Annabelle Stamm, Senior Sustainability Consultant, Quantis

“Clothing is a major part of our day-to-day consumption and we all know that fashion is getting faster and cheaper. But few consumers realize how much their new shirt or pair of shoes impacts their carbon and water footprint. This new research from Quantis and ClimateWorks Foundation reveals the most environmentally intensive links in apparel supply chains. These results can help brands, manufacturers and consumers make smarter choices about how to get on a more sustainable path.”

Helen Picot, Buildings and Industry Portfolio, ClimateWorks Foundation

“What we know is only valuable when it rubs up against what other people know. This report is an invaluable resource for making change.”

Debera Johnson, Executive Director, Brooklyn Fashion + Design accelerator, Pratt Center for Sustainable Design Strategies

“You have to have good information to make sound decisions. This report provides a great perspective on ways that we, as a textile community, can take action. We can’t allow ourselves to be overwhelmed to paralysis; every small decision and individual action adds up. This will require new business thinking and engagement. Let’s make the wisest choices!”

La Rhea Pepper, Managing Director, Textile Exchange

REGISTER FOR THE WEBINAR ON MEASURING FASHION:

Join experts from ClimateWorks Foundation, Quantis, and the NRDC as they look at this ground-breaking study and how it could change the future of fashion. Webinar is on March 28th at 5 pm CET /4 pm GMT/ 11am EST / 8am PST

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