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.


  1. Your thoughts on buying good quality clothes is good. However they cost more. Younger people do not have the money to buy anything but cheap with . Along with this is fashion and being liked by their friends.They all want to be the same,one happy gang. As the impact hits the young about CO2 things could change. Their is the possibility that the UK could produce its own clothing and reduce the CO2 emissions.

    1. Their is the possibility that the UK could produce its own clothing and reduce the CO2 emissions

      From what? Cotton? Flax? Wool? All of them are more efficiently produced elsewhere, even factoring in the costs of transport (especially now transportation is so efficient with the container ship industry), which is why production in the UK stopped decades ago.

      'Local is better' is cargo-cult thinking. More efficient is better. That might mean local production; or it might mean doing it in somewhere better suited and transporting the results. I mean, we could grow bananas and pineapples in the UK, if we were prepared to spend the resources it would take to produce the heat and environmental conditions; but it's more efficient to grow them somewhere the natural climate is better suited and ship them, even accounting for transportation costs.

  2. Just a thought. We had water wheels producing all sort of stuff 200 years ago. We have adequate water resources and even today we can produce clothes drink from water resources in small craft industries. Expand the idea and we could produce our oen goods with little or no CO2 problem.That would cut even the CO2 from shipments from China.Worth thinking about.

    1. I have some sympathy with your comment on the young: they are under enormous pressure to be "trendy," wear just the right thing and change as the fashion industry tells them, seemingly month by month. However, there is plenty of evidence that they can act very responsibly when the facts dictate. They are much more scrupulous than my generation at not drinking and driving, a third of them apparently don't drink alcohol at all, and only a small percentage smoke. When the damage done by the fast -fashion industry becomes more widely known there is every chance that habits will change back to grandma's approach of buying good stuff and making it last. I believe quite a lot of youngsters already buy their clothes predominantly from charity shops.

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