The Weekly Journal | Environment

By Yenia Hernandez Fonseca - March 5, 2022

SPRING CLEAN YOUR MIND:

Why Smart Fashion Choices Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Image courtesy of, 'The Considerate Consumer'

New beginnings call for new versions of ourselves. The highly anticipated return of spring motivates us to adopt new habits. Good examples include exercising regularly, eating fresh produce, reusing old glass jars, and avoiding social media before bed. You might be reading this blog with a mason jar on hand, sipping on a ginger-banana-papaya smoothie (highly, highly recommended!) after your 9am HIIT class. 

Whichever new practices you’re trying to embrace this season, they usually depend on the toxic traits you want to cancel in your life. A weak muscular build, processed foods, plastic waste, or (let’s be honest) your ex. There are so many ways in which we can better ourselves.

Traditionally, March is known as the month of spring cleaning – or the time in which we dedicate our souls into turning our homes from looking like holiday cabins to spotless, Architectural Digest-like spaces. 

For fashion enthusiasts, spring cleaning means going into our wardrobes and swapping weighty garments in exchange for the clothes we left in storage throughout winter. However, after a closer look, we can all recognize that not every single piece in our closet reflects the intricate steps we’ll follow when picking the freshest produce at the farmers market. Unintentionally, some of our stuff is probably made of suspicious poly-blend, came from an overseas factory, and was designed by a mass-producing corporation rather than by local manufacturers and designers. 

If you’re reading this, chances are that you care about your wellbeing as much as the environment. But have you considered the carbon footprint of fashion? Why not give our planet the same attention we give to our açai bowl toppings? Let’s break it down.

What is a carbon footprint?

Carbon footprint refers to the total amount of greenhouse gases we release, including methane and carbon dioxide. These gases cause climate change by trapping heat close to the Earth’s surface, which leads to global warming and contributes to respiratory diseases from air pollution. 

Every one of us has an impact in the world. From the moment we wake up, we’re contributing to our own carbon footprint. Globally, the average carbon footprint is close to 4 tons. To have the best chance of avoiding a 2℃ rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop to under 2 tons by 2050. 

Cars, food, consumption, and household energy generate the biggest amount of carbon footprints. There are simple, everyday actions that help reduce your carbon footprint like turning off the lights when you leave a room, recycling, or taking public transportation when you can. But did you know that your fashion choices, both good and bad, have a significant effect on global climate?

Fashion’s carbon footprint

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the clothing industry accounts for 10% of global gas emissions – more than aviation and shipping combined. In contrast to most consumer goods, the fashion industry is particularly problematic because of the fast-paced changes it goes through, encouraging consumers to purchase the latest designs to stay on trend. 

It's difficult to keep up with all of the emissions from manufacturing a brand new pair of jeans, a cotton sweatshirt, or a dress due to the industry’s complex supply chain. There’s also the question of how clothing is transported and then disposed of once it has no more use to the wearer. But as we consider fashion’s significant carbon footprint, we must realise that making smart purchasing choices can help reduce our impact on the planet.

Make a difference in the way you shop

1. Buy local

Picture this. A cotton sweatshirt is designed in Canada. The cotton is grown in Pakistan, woven in India, then cut and sewn together in Bangladesh. The sweatshirt is ultimately finished in Italy using components made in China. Afterwards, it’s sent to Spain for packaging, warehoused in Portugal, and then shipped internationally. Before that cotton sweatshirt reaches you back in Canada, from a “Canadian” company, it has travelled thousands of miles and released tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 

Buying locally produced clothing is a smart way to cut down the travelling distance of clothing. Avoid unnecessary carbon emissions by buying products made of locally sourced materials. This is also a great way to support independent designers and connect with the heritage of the area. When we think of Canadian fashion, we think of clothing for outdoor activities. In the ‘60s, Canada became a hub for engineering timeless footwear that could withstand extreme climate and ever changing fashion trends. Styles may have evolved since, but the overall design of winter boots still has recognizable features that nod to our Canadian lineage in footwear design.  

2. Know thyself, know thy clothes

When shopping, be conscious and intentional about what you are adding to your wardrobe. Ask yourself: How many times will I wear it? Do I already own something similar? How long will it last? Does this item fit my personal style? Resisting the impulse to buy large quantities of cheap clothes, instead of investing in high-quality pieces, reduces the amount you consume and spend overall. Recognizing that our style is deeply personal can help offset the need to buy into short-lived trends in favour of pieces we’ll definitely wear. The fabrics you decide to buy are also important. Take cotton, for example. Cotton is a plant-based fibre but its production is extremely carbon intensive. It requires a heavy use of pesticides and fertilisers. You can minimise your impact on climate and ecosystems by purchasing items made from organic cotton grown without harmful pesticides, less use of energy and water, and under sustainable fertilising practices. As a company that promotes slow fashion and its benefits, we also realise the negative impacts of manufacturing. This is why products like our Gloucester Tee are produced in accordance with OEKO-TEX®. OEKO-TEX® verifies the safety of products and their production processes for health and the environment.

3. Recycle, Repair, Repurpose

Once your clothes have reached the height of their life, it’s good to think about where they’ll end up next. Only a fraction of what’s manufactured actually gets recycled. Eighty-seven percent of the total fibre input used for clothing is ultimately incinerated or sent to a landfill. This means that the greenhouse gas emissions produced during manufacturing are wasted and that further emissions will be released as clothing decomposes or burns.

On average, people are buying three times more clothes than they did in the ‘80s for the sake of having more diversity in their wardrobes. Instead of purchasing new clothes each coming season, try to take your old trusted clothes for a quick fix. There’s a chance that your local leather shop, tailor, or cobbler can give your belongings a second life and save them from becoming landfill waste. Fall back in love with your wardrobe! By simply putting your clothes to use, rather than throwing them away, you’ll minimise your emissions-per-wear – not to mention cost-per-wear.

If you think that your clothes are too old or worn to be donated or sold, you may still say goodbye responsibly by turning them into other household items. What about turning an old t-shirt into a cleaning cloth? Or maybe, turning that old chunky sweater into a pan handle cover or a cosy pair of leg warmers? You can also compost your old clothes, as long as they're made from natural materials like cotton or wool, or donate them to be made into industrial rags.

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