SOURCE: Nature Climate Change

DATE: January 2, 2018

SNIP: Fashion is one area in which consumerism has rapidly grown in recent years. Fast fashion has become more prevalent; clothing is produced on shorter timeframes with new designs appearing every few weeks to satisfy demand for the latest trends, but with this comes increased consumption and more waste. It has been estimated that there are 20 new garments manufactured per person each year and we are buying 60% more than we were in 2000. Each garment is worn less before being disposed of and this shorter lifespan means higher relative manufacturing emissions.

Textile production is one of the most polluting industries, producing 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) per year, which is more emissions than international flights and maritime shipping. Over 60% of textiles are used in the clothing industry and a large proportions of clothing manufacturing occurs in China and India, countries which rely on coal-fuelled power plants, increasing the footprint of each garment. It has been stated that around 5% of total global emissions come from the fashion industry.

Polyester is now the most commonly used fabric in clothing, having overtaken cotton early in the twenty-first century. For polyester and other synthetic materials, the emissions for production are much higher as they are produced from fossil fuels such as crude oil. In 2015, production of polyester for textiles use results in more than 706 billion kg of CO2e (ref. 4). The authors of ref. 4 estimate a single polyester t-shirt has emissions of 5.5 kg CO2e, compared with 2.1 kg CO2e for one made from cotton. However cotton is a thirsty crop and its production has greater impacts on land and water.