is a rapidly growing industry supported by a perpetual cycle of supply-and-demand.
Unfortunately, the industry and its related activities are having catastrophic
impacts on the environment, causing huge greenhouse gas emissions, water
pollution and notoriously displaying poor waste management. Most clothes are manufactured
in developing countries while most are bought in richer western countries,
hence creating a disconnect between two parts of the world and leading to these
environmental consequences seeming fairly “invisible” to us in the west.
Every year, the fashion industry is responsible
for 10% of all GHG emissions worldwide, including 4% of global CO2 emissions. That share is expected to jump to about 25% of global GHG emissions
by 2050. To put this into context, aviation and maritime shipping combined are
currently responsible for 4.4% of global GHG emissions, including 4.1% of
global CO2 emissions. Every stage of clothing production is energy
intensive, starting with the harvesting of natural fibers which relies on
fuels, and the production of synthetic fibers which requires petroleum as
feedstock and fossil-generated electricity used to spin and weave the fibers. The
latter manufacturing stages also require huge amounts of energy in the forms of
electricity and heating. Although both oil and natural gas are used, production
mainly relies on coal-generated electricity, especially as most factories are
situated in China where coal is the most prevalent energy source. A large share
of the aviation, shipping and road transport industry is dedicated to moving
raw materials, fabrics and finished clothing around the globe every year, further
increasing fashion’s carbon footprint. As the industry grows, it is projected
that its freight use will triple by 2040.
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