Climate Crisis: Fashion is the 2nd cause of it

According to the UN, the fashion industry currently produces 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global CO2 emissions – this is more than all international flights and maritime shipping together.

So what are we doing about this? Waiting around will not be enough.

Source: StellaMcCartney.com

Source: StellaMcCartney.com

The UK based charity WRAP (The Waste and Resources Action Programme) has estimated that £140M worth of clothing goes into landfills each year – in the UK alone, we waste 2254 Boeing 747 worth of clothing every year.  Just to help you put into perspective - the fashion industry is the 2nd largest pollutant in the world!

Climate change has been around for years, but increasingly it’s becoming a hot topic thanks to the numerous influential people that have spoken out about the devastating effects to the planet due to our irresponsible consumption of natural resources.

Despite there a few people that still believe that climate change does not exist, science proves them wrong. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we have less than 11 years to the moment in which we will not be able to correct our mistakes.

Interestingly though, the conversations that were once dominated by governmental bodies or politicians, are now more democratised and everybody is fuelling these conversations, especially through social media – disseminating facts and knowledge, in the search for a more sustainable living.

The destruction of Arctic ecosystems forces animals to search for food on land, such as these polar bears in northern Russia. Photograph: Alexander Grir/AFP/Getty Images

The destruction of Arctic ecosystems forces animals to search for food on land, such as these polar bears in northern Russia. Photograph: Alexander Grir/AFP/Getty Images

Influential publications like The Guardian, have also recently updated their ‘style guide’ to introduce terms that accurately express the environmental crisis that is facing the world, underlining the importance that we need to act now and fast. Other publications like The Washington Post, are considering to change their vocabulary too, in order to underline the urgency of the matter. As these facts are increasingly divulgated across the web and picked up by celebrities like Leonardo di Caprio and Cara Delevigne – ignoring reality is no longer a choice. The truth has awoken many consumers, who are now starting to change their shopping happens.

Interestingly though, the conversations that were once dominated by governmental bodies or politicians, are now more democratised and everybody is fuelling these conversations, especially through social media – disseminating facts and knowledge, in the search for a more sustainable living.

Changing Values as a Consumer Mega Trend

Source: Stella McCartney 2017 Campaign

Source: Stella McCartney 2017 Campaign

Ever since the UN launched their 17 Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, the urgency of having to take a stand to change, became evident. Excuses were no longer accepted, and increasingly younger generations (66%) expect brands to take public stands on social issues and 73% believe that companies have a responsibility to do more than just generate profit.

We are in a new world. One where our audience expectations have changed. One where what a brand stands for, is everything. Nowadays, social conscience and desire for betterment lie behind profound changes in consumers’ values. Diversity, transparency, authenticity and inclusion are important cultural factors influencing consumer behaviour and purchasing decisions.

So what are fashion brands doing?

Source: Dazed Digital, 2017

Source: Dazed Digital, 2017

The smart brands are the brands that are evolving – as they realised that Next Gen is a generation with new values, a strong sense of community and more conscious approach to their consumptions.

Stella McCartney has been one of the first fashion brands to take a stand about these issues, which is why in 2017 she decided to photograph her new collection on a landfill. Vivienne Westwood has also been known for always taking a stand when it comes to climate change and in one of her latest interviews to the Fashion Network, she stated: “I’m bored with fashion and much more concerned about the health of the planet. We barely have a generation to change things before it is too late”.

There is an increasing amount of fashion brands that are changing their operations, processes and production line, to satisfy the increasing desire to do good for the planet and to meet people’s desire for sustainability.  

Source: High Snobiety

Source: High Snobiety

In 2018, Adidas launched their initiative with Parley, to produce sneakers made from ocean plastics. Parley is a marine conservation organisation, which have helped Adidas develop this highly innovative and sophisticated shoe, which require 5 recycled 500ml bottles worth of plastic and have 3D-printed soles which are made from recycled polyester and fill net content.  

Since the launch, Adidas produced 5M pairs in 2018 and now plans to produce 11M in 2019. Best part of this partnership, the shoes also look sick. The collaboration is also extending to not only it being just shoes, but also experimenting with swim collections made of regenerated econyl yarn.

At the end of 2018, Rolex launched Rolex.org to collate all of the extraordinary work that they have been doing and supporting for the past 50 years. The beautifully made website, came also with the launch of their Twitter account to 1. Start talking about the long-standing commitment that Rolex have had with Exploration 2.

The Earth Polo, by Polo Ralph Lauren

The Earth Polo, by Polo Ralph Lauren

To celebrate this year’s Earth day, Ralph Lauren also launched a really cool initiative – ‘The Earth Polo’. With the launch of this new polo collection, Ralph Lauren also made a pretty strong commitment to the environment stating that “by 2025, Ralph Lauren is committed to diverting at least 170M bottles from the world’s landfills and oceans.

It’s always hard though, I believe, for brands that are actively producing and selling something to take a strong stands on climate change – whatever they will say,  they will always have environmental activists that will always find a pretence to criticise the person or the brand – it’s always easy to preach, always hard to act upon.

So what should we do?

Talking about a problem is definitely not going to fix it.

Of one thing we are sure though: to save our planet we need to change. And change means that we need to stop buying so much, start buying second-hand products – Greenpeace stated that doubling the useful life of clothing from one year to two years could reduce emissions associated with production by 24%.

Below are a few quick steps that can help you cut part of your yearly waste and CO2 emissions:

  1. Recycle or donate your clothes to charity. The majority of clothes get thrown away and end up in landfills.

  2. Buy vintage, instead of buying new things.

  3. If you need to buy something new, prioritise sustainable brands that have lower footprint on the planet and that use fabrics that use less water and pollute less when produced.

  4. Prioritise online shopping to retail, because they have less of an impact. The MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics found that those who shop online have a carbon footprint 2X smaller than traditional shoppers. Despite all of the packaging that comes with shopping online and delivery of the items – it was proved that online didn’t outweigh the impact of customer transportation going to the store and back.

  5. We should stop buying synthetic fabrics that release micro-fibres into our waters, we have to be prepared to spend more time researching about how we can minimise our impacts, in order to do more for our planet. We need to incite people to throw less and reuse more. We should be promoting cloth swaps or clothing rental services. What is sure – is that we should be doing something – instead of just saying something.

Implementing all of the above would be amazing for our planet – but unfortunately, we also need to be practical and not have just a utopian view of how we could best save our world. It’s easy to say, don’t do that, or that. Basically, stop living the live you live and go full on sustainable – this is not realistic, it’s not going to happen. Or at least not in the immediate future.

What we can do, is to incite people and brands to just keep on divulging awareness, whilst people, brands and corporations also act upon it. Changing is not going to happen overnight, it will take time. But, what is good to see, is that pioneers in the fashion industry are starting to speak up and doing things right.