Monday, 18 November 2019
Your clothing and the climate crisis.
Most of us are familiar with the idea that all forms of transport and travel powered by carbon based fuels are damaging to the environment and that we need to cut buck on their use if global heating is to be kept within bounds.
It came as a surprise to me that the world textile industry is one of the major causes of environmental desegregation. The facts detailed below are taken form an article by Sandra Laville, the Guardian's environment correspondent, published last June.
1. The textile industry creates 1.2bn tonnes of CO2 per year, more than international aviation and shipping combined.*
2. It consumes and pollutes "lake sized" volumes of water.
3. It creates chemical and plastic pollution: up to 35% of microplastics in the ocean come from synthetic clothing. When we wash clothes containing synthetic fibres, each cycle releases hundreds of thousands of tiny fragments of plastic into the waterways.
4. Neither nationally or internationally is inspection of working conditions sufficiently robust to ensure that adequate health and safety standards are maintained and at least minimum legal wages paid.
5. In the UK discarded textiles generate 1.3m tonnes of waste each year, of which 350 000 tonnes are incinerated of put into landfill.
This does not mean that to save the planet we should all go around naked, but it does mean that we should avoid the fast-fashion industry, buy clothing made to last and wash it only when necessary. What we need to do is follow the practices of our grandparents: buy quality clothing and wear it until it wears out.
The fast fashion industry has expanded enormously in the past 25 years.and its younger customers. In the UK we buy more clothes per person than any other European country, and five times what we bought it the1980s. On average such clothing is discarded by its consumers after five weeks.
An adjoining article recommends that we commit to wearing every piece of clothing at least 30 times. I'm happy to say that my generation will have no problem with that, and counting.
* When I put this to an expert at Leeds University he suspected there could be some double counting: the CO2 emissions of creating and transporting the textiles could be included in the "Textile" figure, and again in the "Transport" figure. Let's hope he'll sort it out in his PhD.