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The Fabric of Change: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Clothing Industry

The clothing industry, a big player in the world's fashion business, casts a long shadow on the environment. The fashion industry contributes immensely to the total GHG emission each year, emitting as much as 10% of annual global greenhouse gases. At every point in the supply chain, from the extraction of raw materials through the manufacturing process to the transportation stage, the fashion industry releases large quantities of greenhouse gases. This surpasses the combined impact of international flights and maritime shipping. To understand the industry's impact, let's delve into the different types of GHG emissions:

A representation of the three scopes of GHG emissions

The greenhouse gas Scope 3 emissions of clothing industries are particularly large. This comprises several processes starting with agricultural practices for naturally occurring fibres (cotton) up to the last stage- garment end-of-life. Let's explore the main factors that are driving sectoral emissions.

  1. Fibre Production: Cotton farming consumes water and pesticides in great quantities which leads to the destruction of land and methane discharge. Artificial fibres like polyester derived from fossil fuels increase the industry's carbon footprint.

  2. Fabric Processing: The dyeing and finishing processes are energy intensive as they often rely heavily on fossil fuels and discharge toxic chemicals into water bodies.

  3. Manufacturing: Utilization of coal for electricity often takes place at production sites, resulting in Scope 2 carbon emission. Furthermore, the material as well as the finished goods transportation is responsible for the industry's Scope 3 carbon emissions.

  4. Consumption and Disposal: Trends in fast fashion not only inflate the manufacture of clothes but also end up with textile waste, all deposited into landfills, where they decompose by releasing methane which is a powerful global warming gas.

Clothes on a clothing rack

Various steps will effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the Clothing industry. A few of them being -

  1. Sustainable Materials: Moving from conventional cotton to organic cotton, recycled polyester, or materials like Tencel (made up of wood pulp) provide great support to the environment.

  2. Cleaner Production: Implementing renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies in the manufacturing facilities and considering energy-saving technology in dyeing and finishing processes can result in a huge reduction of Scope 2 emissions.

  3. Circular Economy Principles: Encouraging garment repairs, rental models, and purchases of second-hand clothing is necessary as this will help extend the life of clothes and the production rate will drop, thus reducing the net effect on the environment.

  4. Transparency and Collaboration: The brands partnering with suppliers to implement sustainable practices involving responsibility sourcing can help to minimize the environmental impact along the supply chain.

The 2022 research of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation noted that there is a positive development in the manufacturing industry as the recycling of polyester has recorded a 103% increase since 2019. Several large fashion brands have chosen to develop their sustainability criteria. As a result, H&M sets itself a goal to become climate-positive on the whole value chain by 2040.

On the part of consumers, you can also exercise a great responsibility in making changes happen. Firstly, buy less, choose well. Invest in timeless classic clothes that can serve you for long and do not waste your money on impulsive fast fashion items. Secondly, Embrace pre-loved clothing. Shop from thrift stores or use rental services for clothes and try not to rely on buying brand-new clothes as much as possible. Finally, prolong the life of your clothes by treating them with proper care and carrying out necessary repairs, which can increase the lifespan of your clothes to a considerable extent. Also, look for brands that practice fair trade and eco-friendly production techniques. By implementing these strategies, the clothing industry can transform from a major polluter to a leader in sustainability. Through collaborative efforts, innovation, and conscious consumer choices, we can rewrite the fashion narrative, ensuring a future where style meets sustainability. Not sure where to find sustainable clothing, in the UK? Check Ganddee, we have plenty of recommendations to guide you through your sustainability journey. Welcome to the movement shaping a better world, one purchase at a time.


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