The Weekly Journal | Environment
By Gary Parkinson - April 22, 2022
On Earth Day
Awareness Call To Stop Fashion GHG Emissions
Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
Earth Day is on April 22, 2022, an annual awareness initiative to help spread the word about threats to the planet’s environment like pollution or deforestation. Every year, millions of Canadians take part in eco-friendly activities in recognition of the global threats to the environment.
This year, the Canadian chapter of the Earth Day movement is running a special awareness campaign about eco-anxiety. The goal of the campaign is to demonstrate how inaction to protect and preserve the environment impacts the mental health and well-being of citizens across the country. The goal is to provide a direct link between mental health and climate change as part of a broader effort to spur global bodies towards more action.
Fight against climate change: all talk, little action
If you often encounter days like these, chances are you need to reconcile with your personal style. More often than not, when we’re feeling low about ourselves, we can turn to fashion for answers.
There’s plenty of reason that eco-anxiety is on the rise. People are not blind to the realities facing the planet, and they see a lot of bluster from world leaders about their commitments to protect the environment. Unfortunately, the follow through on those commitments has been, to put it bluntly, abysmal.
Since the 1990s, governments and world bodies have all pledged to do more to protect the environment. This began with the enactment of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 as 192 countries agreed to firm GHG reduction targets in order to control global warming.
However, style archetypes don’t paint the entire picture; the point is to identify our own tastes and embrace our individuality among the vast fashion spectrum. It isn’t to say that we are each of one thing either – mixing and matching different style attributes allows us to come up with new ways of dressing.
Humiliatingly, Canada became the only country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol in 2012 (thank you very much, Stephen Harper). Rational common sense returned to Ottawa in time for the Kyoto Protocol’s successor in the Paris Climate Agreement, and Canada also signed onto the follow up agreement, the Glasgow Climate Pact.
However, outside of those glorified photo opportunities, little action has been taken to actually curb climate change. Since 1988, Canada has created 11 different environmental plans and set 9 separate reduced emissions targets; not one of them has ever been met.
The fashion effect on climate change
Now, when most people think of pollution and causes of GHG emissions, things like car fumes, coal-powered smog, and deforestation are examples that immediately come to mind. What many people are unaware of is that the fashion industry is one of the largest contributors to GHG emissions that threaten the stability of our planet.
According to the McKinsey & Company “Fashion on climate” report, the global fashion sector was responsible for over 2 billion metric tonnes of GHG emissions in 2018. If no further action is taken, the same analysts expect emissions to rise as high as 2.7 billion metric tonnes per year by 2030. This is an important milestone as the UN has commissioned a study finding that the world must keep global temperatures at or below 1.5 °C above current temperatures by 2030, or we cross a threshold that can’t be uncrossed.
According to the McKinsey report, the fashion industry has a lot of work to do to fully contribute its collective part to reducing GHG emissions. At the current pace, GHG emission metric tonnes will be more or less the same as current levels. Fashion would have to reduce GHG emissions by approximately 50 percent between now and 2030 in order to hit its target.
What’s responsible for fashion’s high GHG emissions?
The McKinsey report also breaks down what are the key contributing factors to fashion’s high GHG emissions. According to their analyses, 70 percent of fashion’s GHG emissions are a direct consequence of “upstream activities.” These activities include things like materials production and processing of finished products.
Why is this such a significant problem? The majority of “fast fashion” products are manufactured in coal-fired plants, often in developing nations in East Asia. Fast fashion describes the items that are manufactured en masse and at low cost in order to keep up with the cyclical trends of the fashion industry.
All of this manufacturing pollutes the atmosphere, contributing a sizable amount to the global GHG emissions problem. It’s why bodies like the European Union have taken a more aggressive stance to penalize contributors to fast fashion pollution.
How can you help in support of Earth Day?
Given all of these disappointing causes of eco-anxiety, what can individual citizens do to send a message to fashion brands that the time for sustainable fashion is now? In Canada, people can support local brands that do believe in sustainable fashion using environmentally friendly materials produced in locations that emit no pollution and also respect worker rights.
This is part of a growing trend among younger Canadians, in particular, who are more likely to purchase products from brands that share their passion for sustainability. Millennials and Gen Z buyers prefer a values-based relationship with brands, and that’s why brands like Wolfe Co. Apparel & Goods are developing a loyal base of customers.
People want to have their styles, but they also want to contribute to environmental protection. Sustainable fashion products are one way all individuals can make a small contribution towards saving what’s left of our natural planet.