According to the United Nations Environment Programme and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. 87% of textiles are incinerated or disposed of in a landfill. In addition, every year a half a million tons of plastic microfibers (from manmade fabrics such as polyester and rayon) are dumped into the ocean, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles. Microfibers are being ingested by organisms all the way up the food chain, including by humans, with unknown health consequences.
With the advent of ‘fast fashion’ which is marketed to be cheap and worn only for a short period, the average person today buys 60% more clothing than in 2000, and they also discard more.
What can you do?
- Buy only what you need and buy quality. In some countries, 40% of purchased clothing is never used.
- Buy second-hand. Sites like Thredup and Poshmark offer tens of thousands of items of gently used clothing in excellent condition at steep discounts. The websites and phone apps are easy to navigate with robust search categories to help you find not only your size and type of clothing, but also your favorite brand and style.
- Repair. Many Youtube video tutorials and websites will show you how to mend specific items. Mindful mending is a trend where you intentionally show the repair as part of the history of the garment.
- Donate what you no longer use.
- Recycle items that are not good enough to donate. Newton picks up used textiles at the curb through Helpsy.
To learn more:
- “How Much Do Our Wardrobes Cost to the Environment?” World Bank, September 23, 2019.
- Aleeya Mayo, “Amazon isn’t alone in reportedly destroying unsold goods. Nike, Burberry, H&M and others have also come under fire for torching their own products,” Business Insider, June 22, 2021.
- Phoebe Yung, “What’s wrong with fast fashion?,” Pebble, June 10, 2021.
- “Waste is out of fashion,” U.S. PIRG, last accessed September 20, 2021.