I don’t often share denim news here as such as we’re more about the fashionable side of it, however I received this story this week and thought it was really interesting – so much so that I would love to hear all of your opinions on it. I know people and animals have been suffering hugely the last few weeks with all the natural disasters and my heart goes out to them, so could the way denim is made be contributing to global warming as part of a bigger picture? Check it out below.
Climate Week just took place and Green and Consumer Groups Hoped for Actual Climate Commitments from the Fashion Sector. Apparently it’s going to take fashion companies another two years to even set climate targets!
As some of the top business leaders and fashion brands converge in New York City for Climate Week, Filthy Fashion (a newly-launched campaign from Stand.earth in partnership with consumer group SumofUs), takes aim at top fashion brands including Levi’s, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, Express, American Eagle Outfitters, Wrangler and Lee – calling on them to commit to immediate and strong climate reduction targets now and take responsibility for their devastating climate impacts. Over 118,000 people have signed onto a petition asking jean companies to clean up their ‘dirty denim’ and commit to sustainable, substantive environmental goals and immediately begin addressing their greenhouse gas emissions created by denim manufacturing.
I know a lot goes into making jeans. On average it takes around 1,800 gallons of water (from cotton growing to finished garment) to make one pair of jeans, which is actually truly shocking, but I think the most pollution and damage comes from not just water wastage, but the disposal of the chemicals and dye. I’ve heard that there’s a river in Xintang (see here) which is actually indigo blue and flows into the ocean. Xintang produces 260 million pairs of jeans a year and the dye pollution left behind is devastating. River Blue is an organisation set up to try and control the pollution of toxins from jeans factories (check that out here) and hopefully it will start to have an impact on cleaning up the waste left behind. While most of us here buy our premium denim straight from California, there are still many which are manufactured overseas and they don’t have the same environmental laws, which is very worrying.
Today, some of these leading apparel companies–including Levi’s, Gap, Guess and VF Corp. (Wrangler and Lee)–announced their intention to set climate targets in two years through the Science-Based Target (SBT) project. Stand.earth and SumofUs call on these companies to go further in the face of the growing climate crisis. Real climate action requires committing to significant climate goals now for their entire supply chain and a move to renewable energy, as Mars and Apple have. While a SBT can be a useful tool, unless coupled with immediate action, bold targets and commitments to renewables, a weak SBT can also provide PR cover for climate laggards. According to reports from the Carbon Disclosure Project, denim and apparel companies ignore as much as 90% of the climate pollution they generate. Groups Stand.earth and SumOfUs are calling on companies to account for their supply chain, whether they own their factories or use contract manufacturers abroad.
From this story, it seems a lot of the pollution being focused on is the emissions and the waste, creating toxins. None of us know specifically if this is affecting climate change as the earth has been through many processes naturally on its own. There was a point when we were ice age for a while and that had nothing to do with humans, but I do know that all the extra heat we create and all the gasses that are going up into the ozone layer must at least be contributing to the warming up of the planet, causing so many dangerous natural disasters and the ice caps melting etc. If it wasn’t, I’m not sure that everyone would be making a huge deal out of it. It must be proven to have some influence and as humans, is it our responsibility to make that change? After all, we shouldn’t be destroying the very thing that keeps us alive.
“Hundreds of forest fires burn out of control on the Western side of our continent while hurricane after hurricane pummels the South and East and the fashion industry waits for someone else to address the climate crisis. Companies like Mars and Apple, which have each pledged a billion dollars for climate solutions, are responding. But every company must take action – it’s time for Levi’s, The Gap, Lee and Calvin Klein to lead,” said Todd Paglia, Executive Director of Stand.earth. “Manufacturing a single pair of denim jeans produces emissions equivalent to burning 44 pounds of coal. That is why, as part of our Filthy Fashion campaign, we created a ‘shopping list’ to help fact check commitments fashion brands make during Climate Week—warning these brands that PR-friendly but weak commitments will not cut it for the planet.”
“The world is quite literally under water and on fire right now as flooding and wildfire disasters sweep the planet,” said Liz McDowell, Campaign Director at SumOfUs. “Lives are on the line. Fifteen years ago, it might have been enough for companies like Gap or Nike to promise to set short-term emissions reductions targets, but today it’s simply not enough. The urgency is too high. In the absence of leadership from the Trump administration, apparel companies need to take meaningful action today to reduce the devastating climate impacts of their production around the world. Promising to make promises two years down the road just doesn’t cut it. And industry giants like Calvin Klein, American Eagle Outfitters, Guess and Express haven’t even come clean about the environmental footprint behind the clothes they make.”
According to one study, the fashion industry is responsible for a whopping 3.0-5.4% of all global climate emissions when the full supply chain is considered. How crazy is that? I know there are numerous other factories and pollution to consider, but I had no idea that around 5% came from fashion companies. It’s quite shocking. Another rough analysis estimates that the global textile and apparel industry burned the equivalent of 291 billion pounds of coal in 2008 to produce more than 132 billion pounds of fabric—more coal than was mined last year in all of Pennsylvania and West Virginia combined. Now that’s crazy to me too!
Hopefully companies can look into finding renewable energy sources and a way to dispose of dye which doesn’t harm the water. I know brands like Levi’s have introduced their Waterless collection which is hugely beneficial on saving water, and other brands like REPLAY invented the laser technology so a wash is created via laser, which also saves water. We can only hope innovations are going to happen. So, the point of this article is not to scare you off buying denim at all as a lot of the smaller brands we buy from don’t seem to be targeted, but what’s your opinion on it? Do you think the fashion industry is responsible for contributing to global warming and all these natural disasters? Comment below and give your opinions. Find out more information here.
Main image credit: NPR.org.