Fashion's Carbon Footprint—And How You Can Help Shrink It

clothes hanging on a rack
  • Feb 9, 2020

Did you know that the fashion industry has one of the biggest environmental footprints? Here’s everything you need to know about the fashion industry’s impact and how you can be a more eco-conscious consumer.  

Environmental impacts of the fashion industry 

From water pollution to greenhouse gas emissions, the fashion industry impacts the environment in a wide variety of ways:

  • The fashion industry is responsible for approximately 10% of humanity's carbon emissions—more emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined—and is on pace to emit 26% of the world’s emissions by 2050.

  • Nearly 85% of textiles go into landfills each year—enough to fill the Sydney Harbour.

  • As old clothes decompose in landfills, they release methane—a greenhouse gas more potent than CO2.

  • Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is dumped into a landfill or incinerated. 

  • The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest consumers of water. It takes about 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans and about

  • 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt.

  • 35% of all microplastics — small, nonbiodegradable pieces of plastic — in the ocean come from the manufacturing of synthetic textiles such as polyester.

Sources: Business InsiderSustain Your StyleWorld Bank

Sustainable fashion brands

As the fashion industry’s impacts become more prominent, many brands are responding by taking steps to make their own companies more sustainable. Brands such as Reformation, People Tree, Everlane, Stella McCartney, Amour Vert, Pact, Outerknown, Alternative Apparel, and Outdoor Voices are all taking various steps to improve their environmental footprint.

Several brands have also joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which is an alliance of apparel, footwear, and textile brands that work together to achieve sustainability goals and eliminate the fashion industry’s environmental footprint. SAC members include American Eagle, Gap, H&M, J.Crew, Levi’s, and Ralph Lauren.  Other brands that meet high standards of environmental and social commitment include Eileen Fisher, Athleta, Allbirds, Patagonia, Tentree, Thread Harvest, Veja, Toms, United by Blue, and ABLE.

How you can help

While all of these fashion brands take steps to be more sustainable, there are also steps you can take to support the planet. Here are some ways you can be a more sustainable consumer:

  • Buy fewer clothes.

  • Buy clothes from consignment or thrift stores, rather than buying new clothes.

  • Donate your old clothes rather than throwing them out.

  • Recycle old clothes if they are in too poor condition to be donated. H&M now has bins in every store where you can bring old clothes to be recycled!

  • Rent clothes from a clothing rental service such as Rent the Runway for special occasions, rather than buying clothes for just one use. 

  • Choose clothes made with recycled materials.

  • Buy higher quality clothes that will last longer.

  • Upcycle clothes and clothing scraps.

  • Mend damaged clothes rather than throwing them out.

  • Buy clothes made with recycled, organic, or sustainable materials and without harmful chemicals or dyes.

  • Choose brands that take steps to be as sustainable as possible, whether by manufacturing with renewable energy, using minimal packaging, or having a closed-loop system.

Being a more eco-conscious consumer is a great way to help our planet. Want to do even more to support the environment? Make the switch to 100% clean, renewable energy today!

Stay in the know

Learn about clean energy, climate tips, special offers, and more