EarthTalk: Is fashion bad for the environment?

We all have questions when it comes to the Earth and how we can better the environment. Pulse will feature EarthTalk’s Q&A every Tuesday to answer the environmental questions that everyone is wondering about. 

Dear EarthTalk:

I heard that the apparel industry has a huge carbon footprint and environmental impact. What are manufacturers doing to combat this problem?”

— Bea Wilson, Miami, FL

It is true that making and distributing new clothing has a huge impact on the environment. Cotton production is beset by synthetic chemical inputs including pesticides, fertilizers and dyes, not to mention the setting aside of so many millions of acres of farmland that could be used to feed hungry mouths.

Meanwhile, polyester and other synthetic fabrics may not take up crop land, but they are made out of petroleum and thus contribute to our continuing reliance on fossil fuels.

Another environmental issue with the apparel industry is how much shipping goes on to get raw materials to and finished products out of pollution-spewing factories across China, Indonesia and other far flung locales where labor and real estate are cheap.

So, what can be done? For one, if you like cotton, go organic. And bonus points if it’s grown and processed locally or at least within the U.S., saving greenhouse gas emissions caused by shipping long distance. Meanwhile, if you’re a fan of synthetic fibers — or rely on them for their technical performance attributes — you should look to buy used items or new ones made from recycled materials.

Interested in getting your questions answered?  Email question@earthtalk.org!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *