The global fashion industry
The global fashion industry used some 21 trillion gallons of water in 2015 alone,. And the apparel and footwear sectors combined accounted for 8 percent of global carbon emissions in 2016 In theory, reusing clothes avoids some of the water and fertilizer use, greenhouse gas emissions and other impacts that result from producing a new garment.
A 2017 study
A 2017 study in the Journal of Cleaner Production conducted life-cycle assessments on a cotton T-shirt, a pair of jeans and a polyester dress.
Research by Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP), a sustainability advisory group in England, "shows extending the average life of clothes by just three months of active use per item would lead to a 5 to io percent reduction in each [item's] carbon, water and waste footprints."
studies and found all but one concluded that lengthening a garment's life by reusing it reduced its environmental impact.
Reuse and Recycling of Textiles
that are made in and exported from Nordic countries saves the equivalent of 425 million pounds of CO2 annually, along with 19 billion gallons of water. That is equivalent to the CO2 expelled by around 42,00o cars each year
It found that quadrupling the average life span of these items resulted in a 75 percent savings in freshwater used for dyeing and other processes.
The Annual Water Usage
the annual water usage of about 174,000 American households, according to U.S. government estimates. The fashion industry accounts for about 8-10% of global carbon emissions and nearly 20% of wastewater.
The fashion industry accounts for about 8-10% of global carbon emissions and nearly 20% of wastewater. And while the environmental impact of flying is now well known, fashion sucks up more energy than both aviation and shipping combined.
In the UK, continuing to actively wear a garment for just nine months longer could diminish its environmental impacts by 20-30%.
Throwing clothes away so they end up in landfill or being incinerated simply leads to more emissions
According to figures from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it takes 3,781 liters of water to make a pair of jeans, from the production of the cotton to the delivery of the final product to the store. That equates to the emission of around 33.4 kilograms of carbon equivalent.
If that is for just one pair of jeans, imagine the environmental cost for everything in our wardrobes. The following statistics, published by the UNEP and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation give us an idea:
- Every year the fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water — enough to meet the consumption needs of five million people.
- Around 20 % of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment.
- Of the total fiber input used for clothing, 87 % is incinerated or disposed of in a landfill.
- The fashion industry is responsible for 10 % of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. At this pace, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will surge more than 50 % by 2030.
- If demographic and lifestyle patterns continue as they are now, global consumption of apparel will rise from 62 million metric tons in 2019 to 102 million tons in 10 years.
Every year a half a million tons of plastic microfibers are dumped into the ocean, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles. The danger? Microfibers cannot be extracted from the
water and they can spread throughout the food chain.
- The simplest way to lower your fashion collection’s carbon footprint is to contribute to the so-called circular economy by buying second-hand clothing.
- You should still shop wisely and avoid purchases that you won’t treasure for the long term, but second-hand clothes are increasingly on trend because of their environmental benefits.
- In fact, the total value of the global secondhand clothing market is predicted to more than double from its value today to reach USD 77 billion by 2025.
- By 2030, will buying lots of brand-new clothes be frowned upon in the same way that driving a petrol-guzzling car or traveling by private jet is today?
Research by WRAP found that by extending the average life of clothes by just three months per item, from 2 years and 2 months to 2 years and 5 months, would lead to a 5-10% reduction in each of the carbon, water and waste footprints. It keeps clothes out of landfill, and prevents the production of new clothing items.
So, in this case, the answer seems simple. Yes, if you want to reduce your environmental impact, you should definitely shop for clothes second hand.
“Re-use and recycling offer some carbon savings because the lifetime of clothing that is re-used or recycled is extended. Where this displaces a sale of a new garment, 10 the effects on the environment from fibre extraction and processing are avoided."
— WRAP report
Secondhand clothing sales are booming
– and may help solve the sustainability crisis in the fashion industry