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Fashion Accounts For Up to 10% of Global Carbon Dioxide Output—More Than International Flights and Shipping Combined

Posted on December 23 2022

Fashion Accounts For Up to 10% of Global Carbon Dioxide Output—More Than International Flights and Shipping Combined

While you may have heard whispers of how harmful the fashion industry is to the planet, few people are actually aware of the extreme impact fashion has on our world. 

Here are a few stats that will hopefully make you stop and think about the make up of your closet:

  • Fashion accounts for up to 10% of global carbon dioxide output—more than international flights and shipping combined, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.
  • While people bought 60% more garments in 2014 than in 2000, they only kept the clothes for half as long.
  • 87% of the total fiber input used for clothing is ultimately incinerated or sent to a landfill.
  • Less than 1% of all clothing is recycled into new garments, due to the labor intensive nature of textile recycling, the difficulty and chemicals needed to separate fabrics, and the reduced longevity of low-quality fabrics. 
  • Textiles are the second-largest product group made from petrochemical (oil) plastics behind packaging, making up 15% of all petrochemical products.
  • Shein puts out an average of about 1,000 new women’s clothing styles a day based on research by Bloomberg, 85% of which were made with polyester.
  • Scientists estimate that, globally, 35% of the microplastics found in oceans can be traced to textiles, making them the largest source of microplastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

    Wow...that's a lot to take in.

    What many don't understand about the environmental impact of the fashion industry is that it's not simply an issue of over-production. The oil industry is kept alive due to the predicted future growth of plastics, and textiles is one of plastic's biggest consumers. 

    Those plastic particles make most modern textiles incredibly hard to recycle and result in millions of tons of microplastics coating the ocean floor and harming sea life. 

    Lifestyle Changes to Make Fashion More Sustainable

    So, what can YOU do to help? 

    First, if you have the financial means to stop buying fast fashion, do it immediately! Companies like Shein, Zara, H&M, Boohoo, Asos and others are some of the worst contributors to the unsustainability of fashion. 

    Second, buy less. Studies have shown people throw out an item after wearing it just 7-10 times. Social media and advertising tell us that we need to replace our wardrobe every week, but those who really want to make an impact in the climate crisis need to block the brainwashing and re-define their relationship with fashion. 

    Third, opt to mend or alter clothing before throwing it away. Get creative! Consider how you can transform that torn pair of jeans or stained t-shirt into a new item. Save fabric scraps for cleaning rags or stuffing packages before shipping.

    Fourth, shop second hand & upcycled. Brands like Reclaim work to capture discarded textiles before they see the landfill, creating a net zero effect and giving un-used textiles new life. Other companies like ThreadUp have created a great secondhand marketplace where you can find pre-loved clothing. 

    Fifth, beware new polyester. Where possible, opt for natural fibers if you have to buy something new. 

    Most importantly, don't be too hard on yourself. These issues are complex and deeply engrained in our culture. Taking the first step to educate yourself is the most important step of all!

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