Fast fashion impact.

Fast fashion impact.

Generous APE

Greta Thunberg said on Monday over a series of three tweets attached to her feature as Vogue Scandinavia’s inaugural cover star: “The fashion industry is a huge contributor to the climate and ecological emergency, not to mention its impact on the countless workers and communities who are being exploited around the world in order for some to enjoy fast fashion that many treat as disposables.

“Many make it look as if the fashion industry is starting to take responsibility, spending fantasy amounts on campaigns portraying themselves as ‘sustainable,’ ‘ethical,’ ‘green,’ ‘climate neutral’ or ‘fair.’ But let’s be clear: This is almost never anything but pure greenwash.

“You cannot mass produce fashion or consume ‘sustainably’ as the world is shaped today. That is one of the many reasons why we will need a system change.”

Adding to the evidence of that need, a June report from RSA, the U.K.’s Royal Society for Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce, revealed “colossal amounts of plastic going into the clothes we wear.”

“While many fashion websites are keen to market environmentally friendly clothing, the vast majority of items listed on these sites contain new plastics, with half being entirely made from petrochemically derived polymers such as polyester, acrylic, elastane and nylon,” a statement timed with the report’s release noted. “These use large amounts of energy and create environmental damage in their production, and can take thousands of years to break down.”

What has become increasingly clear is that fashion really has no time for greenwashing and no time for limited net-zero 2030 goals if the “code red” of the U.N’.s climate change report says anything about the direction in which things are headed.

The fashion industry needs to fundamentally change in order to mitigate the environmental impact of fast fashion, experts have said.

Clothes rental, better recycling processes, pollution control technology and the innovative use of offcuts are among measures that could help, they said.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has calculated the fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year, while it is estimated to use around 1.5 trillion litres of water annually.

Libby Peake of the Green Alliance said the UK had a particular problem when it came to fast fashion. “We buy more clothing per head than any other country in Europe, including nearly twice as much as Italians, who are better known for their fashion sense,” she said.

The facts

1 in 6 people in the world works in a fashion-related job with 80% being women

93% of brands aren't paying their garment workers a living wage.

100 billion items of clothing are produced each year.

3 out of 5 fast fashion garments end up in a landfill within a year of purchase.

The fashion industry is responsible for an estimated 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Over a third of all microplastics in the ocean come from synthetic textiles.

A single polyester garment can shed millions of microplastics.

Polyester takes over 200 years to decompose.

Only 13% of clothing and footwear is recycled. 

It takes over 1800 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans.

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Copy adapted from Nicola Davis The Guardian & WWD Tara Donaldson and stats from