The impact of the fashion industry on the environment is becoming increasingly detrimental as production and consumption increase. The effect is so severe that it’s been deemed one of the top 10 global threats to environmental sustainability and has even surpassed climate change in severity.
This blog post will discuss how the industry, particularly fast fashion, contributes to this negative environmental cost. We’ll also suggest ways to help reverse the negative impact of fashion on earth.
5 Negative Impacts of the Fashion and Textile Industry on the Environment
The impact of the fashion industry on the environment is harmful in several ways. It can be broken down into six main categories:
Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Production
It’s estimated that the fashion industry is responsible for up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than the annual carbon emissions produced by international flights and maritime shipping combined.
These carbon emissions come from various processes, such as transporting materials, laundering clothes after purchase, dyeing fabrics that require large amounts of water and chemicals, making garments using machinery that uses electricity, and more.
Additionally, greenhouse gases are emitted due to raw materials that are sourced, such as cotton.
Most fabrics used in the industry come from non-organic sources. They require harmful chemicals to be processed into fabric. These processes impact human health and contribute to global warming by emitting pollutants like sulfur dioxide (SO), nitrogen oxide (NO), and carbon monoxide (CO).
Water is another impact of the global fashion industry, particularly when looking at the fast fashion sector. It takes an immense amount of water to make textiles and clothing in general, which significantly impacts global water resources because 80% of all available freshwater is used for agricultural purposes.
Additionally, many facilities that manufacture clothes are located near rivers or other water sources. For example, one of the most common fabrics used by fast fashion brands is cotton. Producing one cotton shirt requires approximately 20 times more water to produce than polyester.
Unsustainable practices impact our environment in several ways, including energy consumption and pollution. Most facilities that manufacture clothes are located near major urban areas in developing countries. This impact results from the high amount of energy required to produce clothing and transport materials and products from one place to another.
For production facilities to function at their maximum capacity, they require large amounts of electricity from burning coal or gas – both sources are non-renewable resources.
Much of the impact on the environment from clothing production is caused by waste disposal. The fashion industry produces an enormous amount of textile waste, which often ends up in landfills or waterways since they are not properly disposed of.
This impact is due to the quick rate at which consumers discard clothes – approximately 20% of clothing ends up in landfills within a year, and 80% within five years.
Additionally, waste disposal also comes from textile dyeing facilities that use large amounts of chemicals for color processing and laundering items after purchase. These methods impact human health and impact ecosystems.
The fashion industry is also responsible for 20% of industrial water pollution worldwide. For instance, chemicals and fertilizers from cotton production are often dumped into major waterways, which leads to water contamination.
Moreover, the fashion industry’s impact on marine life is significant due to microfiber pollution – bits and pieces of plastic that break down from synthetic clothes during laundering end up in waterways and impact aquatic life when ingested by fish or other sea creatures. The impact can be seen not only along coastlines but also throughout oceans worldwide.
Moreover, waste from fashion production impacts air quality and impact ecosystems. It’s estimated that less than 0.01% of all clothing produced is recycled – the rest ends up in landfills or waterways since they are not correctly disposed of.
Another impact of the global fashion industry is deforestation, which occurs due to clearing land for farming or ranching to produce fabric materials like cotton or livestock used in clothing production. In some cases, chemicals from manufacturing facilities can leak into soil and water sources, causing damage to surrounding wildlife.
8 Simple Ways We Can Do To Reduce The Negative Impact of Fashion in the Environment
We can help positively impact the environment by making sustainable choices when it comes to our clothing. Here are just some of the ways we can impact the environment by making small changes in our lives:
Use sustainable fabrics
Sustainable and natural fabrics such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, and recycled wool impact the environment positively by reducing our carbon footprint. These fabrics require less water and energy than synthetic ones, so it’s essential to be mindful of where we source them from and what their impact is throughout the entire cycle of production.
By adding one or two impactful pieces to your collection made from sustainable fabrics, you will reduce the impact of fashion on the environment by not generating as much waste over time.
Make use of repair services
It may seem more convenient for us to simply throw away damaged items or clothing that we do not use. However, this is not sustainable since these clothes will eventually just end up in landfills . Instead, make use of repair services to extend the lifespan of our clothing.
Additionally, you can also repair items yourself. This way, we keep clothes out of landfills and reduce the impact on the environment. Numerous videos online show how to fix clothing, so it is less likely to be thrown away or replaced with brand new ones.
Buy secondhand or vintage clothing
Buying secondhand clothing is another impactful choice to make when it comes to the environment. It keeps clothes out of landfills and reduces environmental impact since they are being reused instead of thrown away after a few wears.
In addition, vintage clothing is also never out of style as these items are timeless and trendy. Instead of buying new impactful pieces, consider investing in vintage clothing to reduce the impact of fashion on the environment.
Support sustainable fashion brands
Instead of buying impactful pieces from mainstream brands or fast-fashion retailers, consider shopping at ethical and sustainable fashion companies dedicated to creating ethically sourced fashion pieces made from sustainable fabrics.
By purchasing impactful pieces from slow fashion brands, we can reduce the impact on the environment by going through a more sustainable cycle that does not negatively impact our planet.
Consider impactful pieces that stand the test of time
Instead of simply going out and buying fashion pieces just because they are trendy, consider picking timeless items that can be worn season after season or year after year. This way, we reduce fashion waste by not throwing away clothes as often over time. These impactful pieces will have a reduced impact on the environment due to their longevity.
Upcycle old clothes
Instead of simply throwing out old clothes that are no longer in use, repurpose them into impactful pieces or accessories. For example, you can make reusable cloth pads by cutting up an old t-shirt and turning it into a pad.
Additionally, you could also create headbands/hair ties from old t-shirts or sweatshirts.
By putting in the time and effort to upcycle old clothes, we can reduce the impact on our environment and repurpose items that would have otherwise been thrown away.
Opt for plastic-free packaging
When shopping for clothing, shoes, and accessories, opt for brands that offer plastic-free packaging and recyclable materials.
This is especially important since plastic production has an impact on climate change and causes pollution.
When we no longer wear a piece of clothing, simply donate them. This way, these items can be used by other people and not end up in landfills.
By donating impactful pieces that are still in good condition or wearable, we keep them out of landfills while ensuring they get into the hands of someone who needs them.
In addition to donating clothing and shoes, you can also donate old items that no longer serve a purpose in your life, whether they are clothes or other household essentials.
Donating these impactful pieces ensures they will not end up sitting around collecting dust for years or going into landfills as waste materials.
The fashion industry is a multi-billion dollar market that impacts the environment in ways we’re only just beginning to understand.
However, by taking impactful steps to reduce the fashion industry’s negative impact on our environment, we can help curb climate change and protect our planet for generations to come.
If you like shopping or are interested in finding impactful pieces that are stylish but also sustainable, consider one of these impactful tips when it comes to shopping.
By putting in a bit of effort and time, we can reduce the impact on our environment while looking good at the same time!
We hope this article has given you some insight into the environmental impact of our clothing industry. Let us know if there are other ways we could have helped by commenting on our blog post below. We always love hearing from readers about their impactful tips and ideas!