The fashion industry is a significant contributor to global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Energy consumption by the clothing industry has increased by more than 50% since 2000, which contributes to climate change as well as other environmental problems such as air pollution. The negative effects of coal-fired power plants are exacerbated when they provide electricity for large textile manufacturing centers in developing countries such as China or Bangladesh where the impact on health and the environment can be severe.
The textile industry is an energy-intensive supply chain that goes from processing yarn to transporting and selling clothes, below are the steps involved in the apparel system
Crop Production: To bring seed to life, fuel is used for machinery to plough and harvest crops. The harvested crops later become fabric.
Fiber Production: There are three main steps to producing a fabric, each requiring their own heavy portion of energy. Spinning requires 54%, weaving 23% and chemical processing 38%. The remaining 5% is used for other miscellaneous practices.
Garment Production:Oil is used to power machinery, control temperature and lighting in factories. Oil also plays a crucial role as the base of synthetic fibers like polyester that make up 65% of fabrics on average!
Distribution: Once the Garment is created it is ready to be sold, it's sent via freight transportation - this also has a negative impact on the planet.
Also, the clothing industry over the years has evolved to become very unsustainable by quickly turning around collections at lower prices to encouraging fast fashion. If this keeps continuing the textile industry might as well become the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Below are a few solutions to minimise the effects of the textile industry on the environment.
Renewable Energy: Using clean green and renewable energy could be the first setp in reducing the energy emissions from the clothing industry
Eco-Friendly Brands: Unlike fast fashion bands, eco-friendly brands can be more expensive but they are more durable and will shift the consumers through the process when it comes to fashion - it will allow users to think before purchasing and will provide quality products that last longer and reduce the need of impulsive purchasing
Recycle and Reuse: Instead of throwing away clothes that are no longer usable, reusing is a great way to reduce textile waste - recycling also helps in creating new fabrics. Collaborating on research around sustainable materials is a priority, but efforts to date have been limited. The challenge lies in the volume of global demand and sourcing complexity.
The advancement of scientific research combined with a change in the consumer mindset towards sustainable fashion looks like our best bet for combating textile waste and emissions