Your fashion carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gas emitted from all of your fashion-related activities—including the design, manufacturing, shipping, buying, wearing, cleaning, and eventual disposal of your clothing.
And it's no longer a secret that one of the worst ways in which humans produce GHG today is with our fashion choices. Fashion is responsible for around 10% of total global emissions alone (this is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined).
If the industry continues to grow at its current pace, then its emissions will surge by more than 50% by 2030. This type of pollution can cause irreplaceable damage to local ecosystems and cause global temperatures to rise even more. With the rise of temperatures, we see natural disasters rise, and local economies and health outcomes suffer.
The entire industry needs re-invention.
Where You Spend Your Money Matters
To re-invent the fashion industry, every stakeholder—from designers to manufacturers and consumers—needs to get involved. But the power of consumers can't be overstated. Without consumers making a change, every effort by the fashion industry would be in vain.
In short, that means you must be aware of what you buy and how you use your garments..and it's a lot easier than you think!
Calculate Your Fashion Carbon Footprint
The best way to start changing a habit is to understand it. Find out how much you personally contribute to carbon waste by calculating your carbon footprint using a calculator like this one from Carbonbase. You can calculate your footprint in a few minutes, and then you can then purchase offsets to your footprint and earn rewards immediately in the web app.
If you purchase a lot of clothes, buy clothing in-store, and frequently use toxin-heavy detergents to wash your clothes, it's likely that you'll have a larger carbon footprint. But if you buy less, rent clothing, buy second hand, and use ethical brands, your fashion footprint will be much lower.
Why it Matters
The average carbon footprint for someone based in Hong Kong is approximately 13 tonnes per year, that's about three times larger than the global average. And shockingly, 39% of Hong Kongers throw away clothes after wearing them just once.
According to Greenpeace, 110,000 tonnes of textiles are sent to landfills in Hong Kong annually. That's 1,400 shirts or approximately 21 tonnes of carbon every minute.
Our Climate Change Clock is Running Out
We can't continue at this pace of consumption and waste because our climate change clock is simply running out.
In an art installation that tells it best, artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd re-programmed the infamous Metronome's digital clock in New York City's Union Square into a visual deadline showing how long the world has left to take action on climate change.
The Climate Clock counts down how long it will take to burn through our current "carbon budget"...and the reality is jarring. Humanity has about 7 years to change our behaviour until our climate damage is irreversible.
They calculated the carbon budget using data from Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change and an IPCC special report on global warming. The data suggests that if we can sustain a carbon budget of 420 Gt of CO2, we have a 67% chance to stay under 1.5°C of warming. If we can't keep the budget, it will lead to more devastating natural catastrophes such as wildfires, droughts and typhoons.
But hope is not lost. The biggest way to impact change is with the small actions you take every day.
6 Tips to Reduce Your Fashion Carbon Footprint Every Day
Here are six simple things you can do as part of your daily routine to reduce your fashion footprint—because Anne Marie Bonneau said it best:
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
+ Ask yourself if you really need an item before buying it (and ask yourself MANY times!). Reducing how much you buy is one of the best ways to reduce your emissions.
+ Instead of buying, rent your closet. Rent dresses, clothing, handbags, and accessories you know you'll only wear once. For women who love designer clothing, Style Carousel is a startup committed to providing women with a luxurious circular closet. They offer dress rentals and styling services for women to book whenever they need. Booking with their StylePass means users can enjoy a 50% discount and additional member perks like unlimited exchanges and first picks at new items.
+ Repair clothing that has minor faults. Finding smart and chic ways to restyle old pieces is a fantastic way to increase the number of times you wear a piece.
+ Donate what you no longer use. Consider local NGOs like Redress who are actively committed to making fashion more circular.
+ Choose quality over quantity. Every additional time a garment is worn means less pollution. Poor quality (and often cheap) clothing doesn't survive the wash cycle, meaning that in the long run, you don't actually save much money.
+ Encourage your household to do laundry in a smarter way. Always encourage doing full loads and use non-toxic detergents.
Together, we can all take small actions every day to reduce our carbon footprint and build a better world for ourselves and the generations to come.