The Hidden Fashion Impact
When we think of environmental degradation, we envision power plants expelling pollution, turtles caught in plastic, and aerial shots of cleared-out rainforests. We don’t often think of our pleated pants and crop tops. But, the fashion industry has a devastating impact on our planet, so detrimental that it accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and remains the second largest industrial polluter, second only to the oil industry. Fashion is one of the most overlooked harmful large-scale global industries due to its long and varied supply chains of production, raw material, textile manufacturing, clothing construction, shipping, retail, use, and ultimate disposal of the garment. It goes without saying that this 3 trillion dollar industry has a constant and widespread impact on climate change, among other environmental and social ramifications.
A 2017 report revealed that, in 2015 alone, the fashion industry consumed 79 billion cubic meters of water, enough to fill 32 million Olympic-size swimming pools. Even more concerning, that figure is expected to increase by 50% in 2030 (Global Fashion Agenda, 2017). These half trillion gallons of freshwater are almost exclusively used in dyeing textiles annually. It’s a staggering amount, but the statistics are valid: it takes 2,720 liters of water, as much as you’d drink over a three-year period, to make a single t-shirt and approximately 10,000 liters of water to create your favorite pair of jeans (Fashion Revolution, 2018). The worst part about the amount of wastewater is that it’s usually discharged and often untreated into nearby rivers, where it reaches the sea, eventually spreading its chemical poisons around the globe.