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Fashion’s impact on the environment

This may sound unbelievable, but the fashion industry is the second-largest producer of industrial pollution in the world—second only to oil.

How many times have you actually paused to think about the environmental impact of buying clothes? Chances are, you only think about prices, style, and quality when you’re out shopping for a new outfit or two.

Sure, we feel guilty about blowing too much money on cheap clothing every now and then. But it’s time for us to realize how fashion is contributing to the environment’s downfall.

Now, fashion itself isn’t inherently bad. It’s the shift towards fast fashion, rapidly changing trends, and increasingly-consumerist thinking that sets the alarm bells ringing.

Fashion’s Environmental Impact

Did you know that the fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon emissions, as well as 20% of the world’s wastewater? That’s a lot more than both the maritime shipping and international aviation industries combined.

Waste production

According to the UN Environmental Programme, one garbage truck of textiles is dumped in landfills or burned every single second. That’s a lot of waste.

Right now, the world is consuming 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year. That’s five times as much as what we used to consume two decades ago.

But here’s the kicker: we’re buying more clothes than ever, but research shows that we don’t really use all of the pieces we’re buying. Sounds familiar?

Aside from wasted textile and barely-used clothes, the fashion industry also produces a lot of packaging waste. Clothing items that are individually packed in plastic, large boxes, paper bags and tags — all of these do add up.

Other issues

According to The University of Queensland in Australia, the clothing industry continuously depletes non-renewable resources, emits lots of greenhouse gases, and consumes massive amounts of chemicals, water, and energy.

What’s more, fast fashion houses typically favour inexpensive synthetic fibres when making clothes. These fibres, like nylon, polyester, and acrylic, could take hundreds of years to biodegrade.

And hey, some natural fibres (like cotton—an all-time favourite) aren’t any better.

In our piece about CBD and hemp clothing, we already mentioned how the cotton industry is a major producer of toxic crop chemicals. In fact, cotton farming is responsible for 24% of global insecticide use. Its adverse effect on soil, water, and air quality has been a major concern for environmentalists.

How to lessen the environmental impact of fashion

There are a bunch of things you can do to lessen the negative effects of fashion on the environment.

The number-one thing on the list is to stop consuming fast fashion. Here are a few tips:

  • Invest in high-quality clothes instead. High-quality clothing may be more expensive, but they last a lot longer than cheap apparel. As a result, you’ll drastically cut down on the number of clothes you’re buying and throwing away. 
  • Think long term. When shopping for clothes, go for timeless pieces that you can wear season after season. We know that it’s tempting to buy into the latest trends, but trendy clothes are rarely ever a good idea.
  • Go for unique and versatile pieces. Why buy trendy clothes that everyone already has when you can sport unique pieces that scream your personality? A lot of brands are big on celebrating diverse creativity. Some even use custom elements to create versatile, functional, and stylish clothes.
  • Support recycled. Companies that use recyclable packaging are great. But brands that incorporate already-recycled materials into their packaging? Even better. Supporting these brands will have a positive impact on the fashion industry’s waste problem.

Once you make the shift towards wearing unique, versatile, and long-lasting pieces, you’re not only treating yourself to better quality clothes. You’re also helping out the environment. Win-win, don’t you think?