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No matter what your preferred clothing style is, it’s essential to understand the power you have as a consumer. Our choices impact the environment. Fashion accounts for up to 10% of global carbon dioxide output, which is greater than international flights and shipping combined. Around two thirds of our clothes are made from synthetic fibres, making fashion responsible for a fifth of the 300 million tons of plastic that’s produced on a global scale, contributing to the release of chemicals that harm our water sources and ecosystems.
Keep reading to find out what facts to keep in mind when you shop.
‘Waste Not, Water Not’
Fast fashion is the second most water-intensive industry in the world. It takes 3,000 liters of water to make one cotton shirt. The dyes used to produce clothing have toxic chemicals that end up in our waterways, and approximately 20% of the world’s water waste is from this process.
The fashion industry has a substantial effect on biodiversity loss. The apparel industry supply chains cause soil degradation, conversion of natural ecosystems, and waterway pollution. Most of the negative impact comes from three stages in the value chain: raw-material production, material preparation and processing, and end of life.
The Danger of Microtrends
Microtrends speed up the fast fashion cycle, meaning clothes are ending up in landfills faster. Worldwide, less than 1% of clothes are recycled as clothing. In Canada, 37 kg of textile waste per person ends up in landfills each year. Globally, that number rises to approximately 80% of clothes.
Textiles that end up in landfills can take hundreds of years for fibres to break down, and as they decompose they release carbon dioxide and methane, which are powerful greenhouse gases.
Fashion for the Planet
Circular business models like fashion rentals, repair, and resale, can help us move away from the harmful impacts of fast fashion because they allow us to extend a product’s life, and reduce the need to extract finite resources for production.
If you want to keep on shopping without hurting the environment, there are a few things you can do:
Support clothing companies that use recycled materials, which release around 50% less emissions than using virgin fossil fuels to produce synthetic fibres
Go thrifting and buy used items instead of new ones
Donate used clothing. Some stores will give you a discount coupon when you donate
Reducing fashion waste is an excellent way to decrease our environmental footprint. If you want to learn more fashion facts and access resources, check out Fashion Takes Action, a Canadian organization working to advance sustainability, ethics and circularity in the entire fashion system.
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