The high planetary cost of cheap fashion.

15 January 2021

Collectively, the global fashion industry produces nearly 4 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, or 8.1% of the world total, according to Quantis, a climate consultancy that analyzes the fashion industry's environmental impact. The estimates consider both apparel and footwear.

The numbers are staggering; to produce a single cotton t shirt emits 5 KG of CO2 which is approximately the same as a 12 mile drive, while it uses 1750 litres of water. Jeans are even worse, with a single pair emitting 20 KG CO2 , equivalent to a 49 mile journey by car.

In 2017, the fashion industry devoured around 79 billion cubic meters of water, enough to fill nearly 32 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. And it's only expected to get worse. The Global Fashion Agenda and Boston Consulting Group expect the fashion industry's water usage will increase another 50% by 2030.

There are some solutions, like Piñatex, a leather-like material from pineapple waste and recycled polyester. Developed by leather goods specialist Carmen Hijosa, Piñatex has become a sought-after material. Hijosa has teamed up with a number of luxury designers, including Hugo Boss, Trussardi and Edun, in addition to her H&M collaboration. She hopes to scale her company so Piñatex can eventually supply more apparel-makers with a leather alternative at a lower price point. For now, she acknowledges the $299 H&M jacket is probably out of reach for many consumers.

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