At the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris, all eyes were on the world's leaders as they attempted to agree to more ambitious targets for slowing climate change. The issue is one of the biggest that we face, and one that affects all humanity. Ban Ki-Moon himself warned that “the clock is ticking towards a climate catastrophe”. Against that backdrop, the question has to be asked, what is the relationship between fashion and climate change and what should the industry do to address the issue.
As a billion-dollar industry and the second most polluting business after oil, fashion has a direct impact on the environment. The processing of raw materials required for textiles and the vast amounts of water used (2,700 litres per single t-shirt) contributes to the emission of greenhouse gasses which are causing climate change. The arrival of fast fashion and the massive increase in the number of clothes that we are buying (and quickly discarding) means that this impact is only getting greater. It is amazing then that the industry is not addressing this issue head-on. Just as we are pressurizing governments at COP21, so we should be questioning our fashion brands and using our powers as consumers to create positive change.
Sustainability is all about future-proofing the world around us, protecting our environment for the next generation. By choosing brands that are committed to a more conscious approach to their production we can help take the future into our own hands. Brands at Gather&See like Vildnis work to reduce water consumption, Kowtow create organic cotton pieces, which are much kinder on the environment, Riyka and Been London use recycled materials as opposed to starting from scratch. Brands like these are proving that it is possible to do business in a climate-friendly way - if only the big high street brands that are the main culprits were to follow their lead.
We must look towards the fashion industry to take a greater role in tackling climate change. As an industry that is reliant on the very raw materials that are being diminished, for its own future it must act. The more we shop ethical and sustainable and engage in the issues, the more we can help. The actions of many can speak volumes. Be a part of the solution.
This article was written in 2015. Read our follow on article about what needs to be done now HERE.