I’m sure you know the feeling of heading to the shops and falling in love with a new outfit. It’s easy to be drawn to a new trend, different style, or a classic staple. We start thinking about where the piece will fit in our wardrobe, what other outfits it could help us make, and how we can pair it with the things that we already own. But do we ever stop to think about what impact our clothing has on the planet? Fashion lovers are waking up to the potential effects of their clothing choices on the environment. But here are some things you might not know about how your clothes impact the world. So the next time you think you need a new outfit, remember these 3 ways in which your clothes impact the world.
1. Pollution and Carbon Emissions
We commonly associate the issues of fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions with large-scale industries like energy production and machine manufacturing. However, this is an issue that the clothing industry also significantly contributes to. It has been estimated that clothing production alone is responsible for 3% of annual CO2 emissions. If the fashion industry were a country, it would be the fifth highest emitter of CO2, with only the US, China, Russia and India beating it. Scientists agree that the release of excess CO2 is responsible for rising global temperatures, which will have profound consequences for populations across the planet. Clothing production also makes use of chemical dyes which are released into local water systems, with a disastrous impact on the wildlife and well-being of the surrounding environment. Because of this, elements such as lead, mercury and even arsenic seep into local water supplies.
2. Pesticides and Wildlife
The fashion industry requires huge quantities of farmed cotton. This is a huge boost for countries such as the US, Brazil, and India, which are all major producers and exporters of the resource. But the conditions required to farm on this grand scale can be damaging to local ecosystems. Cotton farming is responsible for an estimated 18% of all pesticide use, and 25% of insecticide use. While it is important that farmers can protect their valuable crops, this can be hugely harmful to the natural ecosystem. Industrialised farming has been linked to a ‘mass extinction’ of insects, which would be catastrophic for human communities globally.
3. Waste and ‘Fast Fashion’
Fashion is an ever-changing industry, and it is understandable that people want to take part in the latest trends and enjoy trying new things. High street brands have responded well to this demand, but this has resulted in a large amount of waste. People in the US alone throw away an average of 15 million tonnes of clothing every year. This is obviously an unsustainable amount, but there are some simple ways to combat this. One of the most helpful is to send clothes you no longer want to charity or thrift shops. This will allow your clothes to have another lease of life and give someone else the joy of using them.