The Weekly Journal | Environment
Gary Parkinson - March 7, 2022
Canadian Olympians Are Sporting Non-Eco Friendly Apparel
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
The 2022 Winter Olympics have come and gone while the 2022 Paralympic Games are fully underway at the time of this writing. Canadians finished the Olympic Games with the fourth highest medal count of all participating nations, though we had fewer gold medals than some of the other participants. Canada’s Paralympic team currently has the third highest medal count and the second highest number of gold medals, trailing only the host nation of China.
All of these accomplishments increase Canadian pride and glory, functioning as a testament to the skills and adeptness of our highly trained athletes. However, not everything related to our Olympic teams is worth celebrating.
Canadian Olympic uniforms contribute to climate pollution
It was announced ahead of the games that Vancouver-based athletic apparel retailer Lululemon was selected as the official manufacturer of Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic uniforms. The company has also secured the rights to manufacture those same uniforms for the 2024, 2026, and 2028 competitions.
Unfortunately, the way that Lululemon manufactures, dyes, and weaves fabrics to make those uniforms is contributing to the global climate crisis. The environmental protection advocacy group, Stand.Earth, has made a bold decision to award Lululemon with a “coal medal” for their lack of effort. According to the advocacy group, nearly half of all energy used by Lululemon to manufacture those uniforms comes from burning coal to power its factories.
Image courtesy of, 'Stand.Earth'
It’s time to overhaul the fashion manufacturing industry
One of the reasons for this disturbing amount of coal-fired contributions to the atmosphere is how Lululemon manufactures its apparel. Rather than invest in domestic, eco-friendly manufacturing, the company continues to outsource development to factories in developing nations that have fewer environmental or human rights regulations.
Climate journalist and advocast Phil McKenna uncovered even more evidence of how this outdated apparel manufacturing process is contributing to greater environmental harm. While covering a protest against Lululemon at their Vancouver headquarters, he reported that apparel made in China relies on coal for 64 percent of their electricity mix.
Image courtesy of, 'Stand.Earth'
Lululemon currently manufactures approximately 67 percent of their products in China. The remaining 33 percent are produced in half a dozen other nations, and Canadian-made products contribute only a small minority to those lines of apparel.
All of this is in spite of the fact that, in 2019, Lululemon set a self-professed goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions related to the development and shipping of their products up to 60 percent by 2030. If two thirds of their manufacturing remains in China at coal-powered factories, it’s hard to see how the company will come even close to meeting its own target.
Let’s make a collective demand for sustainable fashion
Rather than passively ignoring Lululemon’s contributions to the global climate crisis, why not shift our collective societal support towards sustainable fashion and eco-friendly manufacturing? We all need to do our part to save what’s left of our planet, and the fashion industry is one of the main contributors of GHG emissions.
In 2018, the fashion industry was responsible for over 4 percent of all global GHG emissions. Over 2.1 billion metric tonnes of GHG emissions were produced by the fashion industry, largely due to the use of coal-fired plants in China and other nations.
There is a better way. We can all consume more Canadian-manufactured apparel that relies on environmentally friendly manufacturing processes in a category known as sustainable fashion. Sustainable fashion supports monitoring the environmental impact of how products are manufactured, and sustainable fashion companies believe in paying workers a living wage while also providing safe working conditions.
It doesn’t make any sense to care about emissions targets and air pollution as a Canadian or North American demand while, at the same time, enabling higher GHG emissions that reduce air quality in Asia. Let’s work, as a society, to collectively pressure the Lululemons of the world towards embracing sustainable fashion rather than paying lip service to the idea. Boycott those products that are not contributing to a healthier environment and embrace companies that have the apparel and the accessories to support eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyles.
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