The environmental footprint of the apparel industry has grown exponentially, and now emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined, representing 10% of humanity's carbon emissions.
According to the McKinsey & company, the huge carbon footprint of the apparel industry has developed in lockstep with the prevalence of cheap, disposable clothing which has boomed in the last 20 years: The apparel industry has doubled production since 2000, and as of 2014 consumers were purchasing purchasing 60% more clothing and disposing garments twice as fast.
The environmental impact of this is exacerbated by the fact that 60% of garments are manufactured with synthetic fabrics such as polyester, which produces 2 to 3 times the carbon emission of cotton to manufacture and does not decompose in landfills. The carbon emissions of the apparel industry could nearly triple by 2050 at current levels of production according to a 2017 report by the Ellen MacArthur foundation.
The apparel industry has emerged as one of the heaviest polluters since the mid 1990s, second only to big oil. The current trajectory of the apparel industry is clearly unsustainable. Some quick facts about the direction of the apparel industry:
The apparel industry produces 150 billion garments per year
30% of these items are left unsold, and half of what is sold is disposed of within 1 year
30 million tons of clothing is sent to landfills every year
Textile production creates 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, more than maritime shipping and international travel combined.
At this rate the fashion industry could see a $52 billion hit to bottom lines because of scarcity of resources, increased labour costs & over production.
As the industry is forced to pivot or perish, consumers are now encouraged to buy less garments at a higher quality, ideally sustainably made & purchased less frequently. This has been known as ‘slow fashion’, and characteristics of brands that practice slow fashion include:
Products made from high quality, ethical & sustainable materials
Products are often found in local stores (as opposed to chain stores)
Locally sourced/ produced/ sold
Very few styles per collection, and only a few collections per year, maximum.
At Fieldsmith, we believe that purchasing high quality, durable goods produced with locally sourced material will leave a smaller environmental footprint, and provide customers with durable workwear they will love to wear.
Post COVID-19 trade policies are being built against a backdrop of protectionism and consumer nationalism in an economy gutted by the pandemic. The call for buying domestic products has been exacerbated by instances in which goods were required to battle the pandemic, such as masks and other personal protective equipment, were unavailable because of a heavy reliance on foreign manufacturers that prioritized domestic use.
Next time you’re shopping for clothes at a big brand store check the label for country of origin. Names like Vietnam, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and China are all safe bets for where the clothing you're looking at was manufactured.