What’s actually going on with fashion and climate change?
It’s no secret that the conversation around the fashion industry and its impact on the environment is not exactly a happy one.
The consequences of decades of overconsumption, corporate greed and the rise and rise of fast fashion have become impossible to ignore.
But while we all want to do something about it, the constant negative news, confusion, greenwashing and marketing jargon makes it much more tempting to put in the ‘too hard’ basket and instead keep adding to cart.
So let’s break it down. Consider this your cheat sheet to understand exactly what is going on with fashion and climate change - and what we can do about it.
Things are heating up. Literally.
A major goal of action against climate change is to keep global warming rising above 1.5 degrees. This is the threshold experts forecast the impacts we’re already seeing will go from bad to really bad.
But, according to the latest report from the IPCC (the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) we’re likely to breach that number as soon as the 2030s. That’s in less than a decade.
But what’s that got to do with fashion?
The World Bank reports that the fashion industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions. For context, that’s more than all international flights and maritime shipping - combined.
More than 70% of those emissions comes from activities during the fabric production stage; synthetic fabrics derived from fossil fuels are still largely favoured, while the manufacturing and processing facilities eat up even more fuel and energy. Efficiency and cost remain the priority, with little regard for impact on the environment or people.
That can’t be good, right?
To put it politely. After decades of discussion, the only option is action - both at the highest level and very foundation of the fashion industry.
Ok, ok. So what’s the plan?
Along with needs outlined in the IPCC’s report, the European Commission has just announced a proposal to end fast fashion in the EU. Strategies suggested include introducing eco-friendly design requirements for clothes and measures to improve reuse, repair and recycling with the ultimate aim of putting fast fashion out of style by 2030.
“It’s time to end the model of ‘take, make, break and throwaway; that is so harmful to our planet, our health and our economy”, said Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the Green Deal.
Nice in theory, but are we feeling optimistic anything will actually happen?
The system isn’t really working at the moment and hasn’t for some time. As Vogue Business points out, this is a “pivotal moment in time” where the industry has the opportunity to change it for the better. And given how widespread and global fashion operations are, the industry can actually address and improve these issues at once - if it chooses to.
Experts point to nature-based solutions as a potential answer; changes to the agricultural supply chain, working with local communities, minimising the dependence on fossil fuels and better relationships at every step of the supply chain.
Is this the end of fashion?
In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s a signal of the future.
While the reality can feel overwhelming, the future of fashion - one that’s more sustainable, considered and innovative - is already being created.
We’re lucky to see the best of it all the time. At After Eight, we offer a carefully curated selection of the best local and international environmentally-minded brands who design with sustainability in mind, without compromising on style. Plus, our new Pre-Loved platform lets you buy and sell second-hand fashion to reduce wastage.
So what can I do?
We’re not here to make you feel guilty; the changes needed for fashion are fundamental and beyond individual behaviour.
But every little bit counts. An easy place to start is to simply shop and consume in a much more considered fashion.
Vote with your dollar. Support brands and retailers that are walking the walk when it comes to sustainable fashion.
Go natural. Denim is a big water guzzler, so opt for brands like Re/Done, available at After Eight, which use much less water, or fibres with low water consumption like linen and recycled fabrics.
Swap fast fashion for pre-loved. Need a new outfit for an upcoming event? Shop vintage, rent for the weekend, or rifle through the wardrobes of your friends and family. Our motto at PreLoved by After Eight is while new is nice, new to you is even better. (Bonus: You’re less likely to see someone else in the same outfit, too.)
Buy once, buy well. Buy less items of higher quality and you’ll have pieces and outfits that will last you season after season.
Wash less. (Your clothes, that is.) Synthetic materials release hundreds of thousands of microfibers into the ecosystem with every wash. Wash them only when necessary or swap to a lower temperature or best, cold wash.
Join us at After Eight as we navigate the journey of style and sustainability. Committed to making it easier to better your wardrobe, we go behind the seams of fashion to support and celebrate the innovators.