According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the clothing industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions, releasing 1.7 billion tons of CO2 and using 1.5 trillion gallons of water per year, making the clothing industry, particularly fast fashion, a major contributor to pollution in the forms of microplastics and chemical waste (Davis, 2020). This means that the production of clothing, just behind oil and gas, is one of the most carbon intensive industries in the world, as it is heavily reliant on the use of fossil fuels. In response to these alarming statistics, environmentalists have called for a change in the industry’s production methods as well as a shift in the demands of consumers. In order to stay within the IPCC’s goal of remaining under two degrees of global warming, experts suggest that the fashion industry would need to cut its carbon emissions by 80% by the year 2050 (Young and Hagan, 2019); however, current trends suggest that emissions could actually increase by up to 60%.
Clothing retailers who constantly put out new, cheap clothing to keep up with trends in fashion such as Forever 21, H&M, Shein, etc., are typically the culprit for this kind of clothing sale and distribution. These stores have been criticised for their unsustainable practices, as they often also contribute to thousands and thousands of articles of clothes being wasted and thrown into landfills every year. An effective way to avoid contributing to unsustainable fashion is to buy from small sustainable businesses, donating/upcycling old clothes rather than throwing them away, shop secondhand (from places such as Goodwill), or to wear the clothes you already have for as long as you possibly can to eliminate the demand for new clothes to be produced.
Davis, Nicola. “Fast fashion speeding toward environmental disaster, report warns”. The Guardian. April 2020.
https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2020/apr/07/fast-fashion-speeding-toward-environmental-disaster-report-warns Web-based article. Accessed December 2020.
Young, Robin and Hagan, Allison. “The Environmental Cost of Fashion”. Here & Now. December 2019. https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2019/12/03/fast-fashion-devastates-environment Web-based article. Accessed January 2020.