Climate Change and Textiles
Climate change affects human activities and natural environments now and particularly in the future. Although the textile industry is not the biggest contributor to carbon emissions, it plays an important role in tackling climate change and textiles teachers can make a difference, for example, by providing consumer education. Therefore, textiles class is an excellent place to learn about climate change and how to make the world more climate-friendly.
What do your Fashion Choices say about You?
Clothes and fashion are a very complex phenomenon. They have a practical, aesthetic and communicative function. From a practical point of view, clothes should protect our skin. This aspect highlights the tangible qualities: durability, materials and design model.
The Textile Industry Impacts the Environment in a Number of Ways
The textile industry has many negative impacts on the environment and it causes ethical problems. Cotton farming requires excessive amounts of water and conventional production practices for cotton involve the application of substantial amounts of fertilizers and pesticides. Vast amounts of water and chemicals are used throughout all processing operations. Among the greatest challenges of the textile industry are the ethical issues, such as poor, even dangerous work conditions, and low pay.
The textile industry contributes to carbon emissions – a fact that has received less media coverage than environmental and ethical issues related to it. Textile manufacturing is a major industry. More than 150 billion garments are produced annually. Although clothes and shoes are a minor contributor to an individual’s carbon footprint, due to its size the textile industry is one of the biggest major polluters after the energy and chemical industries. It is extremely energy intensive, meaning that a great deal of energy is consumed throughout all processing stages.
Environmental education highlights the importance of keeping environmental and ethical issues and climate impacts in separate compartments. The climate impacts of textiles come mainly from the energy used in the production process. Also, textile maintenance (washing, tumble drying, ironing) has significant effects on an individual’s carbon footprint.
Clothing has Environmental Impacts throughout its Life Cycle
The most significant environmental impacts of the textile industry are related to water and energy use as well as hazardous chemicals used throughout the operations from raw materials to finished product.
Product life cycle refers to the stages the product goes through from raw material production until it is finally removed from the market. According to life cycle analysis, the most significant environmental impacts of the textile industry are caused by the following factors:
- Raw material extraction, dyeing and the finishing process.
- Textile use: energy and water consumed for washing, drying and ironing.
Yarn, thread and fabric production, sewing, transport, storage and textile waste have a lesser environmental impact.
The Fashion World against Climate Change
Many organizations and movements have been campaigning for years to drive change in the textiles industry. For example, the Fashion Revolution is a global movement calling for a radical change in the fashion industry, and the Detox Campaign by Greenpeace has been able to secure public commitments from many big international fashion companies to eliminate hazardous chemicals from their supply chains and products. By loaning clothes on a pay-per-use basis, rental companies aim to combat against rampant consumerism and fast fashion.
The textile industry is aiming to address the climate change issue since its effects can already be seen in the fashion business. As warmer winters result in plummeting sales of winter clothing, there is less need for thicker clothing. Many unprepared textile retailers have already been hit by the challenge. It is possible that the winter season will be eliminated in the future, which would result in a major change for the retail clothing industry which is accustomed to four distinct seasons.