Climate change is one of the most severe threats of the 21st century. It is, thus, necessary for us to work collectively towards reducing our carbon emissions to slow down climate change: drive less, eat less meat, use public transport and… stop buying too many clothes, a.k.a. fast fashion.
Although the carbon emissions produced during the production of the garments we wear are often overlooked, we must not forget about them when working towards a more sustainable lifestyle. At the moment, the fashion industry makes up 10% of human-produced carbon emissions.
Fast fashion as the main culprit
Today’s fashion world is largely dominated by fast fashion – a business concept focused on the quick rotation of stock, a short lifecycle of the garments and their overconsumption. Over the past few decades, this strategy took over and now represents most of the world’s fashion production. Consequently, it is the most responsible for these ever-increasing carbon emissions.
As fast fashion heavily relies on making its money by quantity rather than quality, the impact on climate change is only increased by the sheer amount of clothing, making its way into fast fashion stores.
Reliance on non-renewable energy sources
In recent decades, fashion production has essentially evolved by outsourcing to developing countries, predominantly in the east and southeast of Asia. These nations, including Bangladesh, India or China, still primarily rely on coal and other fossil fuels for energy production, contrary to the west, where renewable energy is increasing the proportion of the power supply.
It takes a lot of energy to keep the sweatshops where fast fashion is made up and running – and the majority, if not all, comes from non-renewable resources, increasing carbon emissions and contributing to climate change.
Shipping garments across the world
Besides non-renewable energy sources in the factories, the countries where fast fashion is produced also influence how far garments and materials have to be shipped.
If a piece of clothing is produced thousands of miles from the end-user, carbon emissions will be much more sizeable than those of a garment produced locally. These emissions must be offset towards neutrality.
Synthetic fabricsSynthetic fabrics such as polyester or nylon have become fast fashion’s favourites. At the moment, they make up 72% of the clothing sent to landfill and the number is expected to grow in the future, unless we make a change in our clothing style. They are a significant source of carbon emissions and add significantly to the waste crisis and plastic pollution.
It takes a lot of energy to produce these fibres, and the extraction of petrochemicals used to create them releases methane into the atmosphere. Combined with fast fashion’s ‘disposable’ view of clothing, the increasing use of synthetic fibres is undoubtedly problematic.