Fashion footprint: what is it and how can I lower mine?

read | July 15, 2021

Our clothes, our buying habits, and our way of handling our closet items at the end of life has an impact on the environment, and it’s called our fashion footprint. Once we measure our fashion footprint, we can take steps to limit our environmental impact by following the steps outlined below. 

What is a fashion footprint?

Fashion footprint is the impact of the fashion industry on the environment. The fashion industry creates more damage to the environment with their carbon footprint than the aviation and shipping industries combined. Every year, making new apparel creates about 4 million tons of carbon emissions, which contributes to 8% of the greenhouse gases around the world. 

Aside from the release of carbon emissions, the apparel world also creates a lot of textile waste, most of which end up in landfills. On top of that, producing raw materials for the clothes, weaving fabrics, and dyeing require a lot of energy and water. There’s also the issue of water pollution and toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing process, not to mention microplastics that leak into our oceans and rivers. At the individual level, the consumer can also have a large environmental footprint due to the washing, drying, and disposing of clothes. 

How can you find out about your clothes’ fashion footprint?

Technology such as blockchain is helping to create more transparency about fashion brands. Blockchain does this by allowing the consumer to trace and monitor details about the manufacturing process, the origin of the materials used, information about the factories where the clothes are produced, as well as the staff that work there. Individuals can trace the entire supply and logistic chain, everything from the extraction of the materials used, to where the item reaches the end consumer. This technology will prevent brands from greenwashing, leading to more accountability in their green efforts. 

If you want to measure your own fashion footprint, you can also easily do so by using this calculator from Thredup. You will have to answer an 11 question survey, at the end of which you will find out whether you are a “green queen” or an “eco newbie”, or something in between. You can also use Lablaco’s fashion footprint survey to calculate yours, or check out Goshopia and Farfetch’s fashion footprint tool

What can you do to reduce your fashion footprint?

  1. The number one thing we can do for the planet is to simply consume less.
  2. Find more eco-friendly ways to discard your old clothes, such as by repurposing them into another item, or donating to those in need. 
  3. You can also extend the life of the clothes you have, by repairing them when possible. If you extend the life of a garment by one year, you can reduce its carbon footprint by 25%.
  4. Buy second hand clothes instead of buying new ones, especially for clothes that have a larger footprint, such as jeans. 
  5. If you prefer to buy new clothes, buy clothes made from recycled materials with a waste-based or zero-waste concept, such as high-quality jeans made from recycled fabric.
  6. Research the brands you buy from carefully, and buy from sustainable and zero-waste circular brands. Ccrave carefully selects all their brand partners to ensure that their business models are truly circular. 
  7. Rent clothes rather than buy new ones. Renting offers more options for your closet, without the waste. 
  8. Limit the number of times you do laundry. Many clothing items don’t require washing after every wear. Doing 5-6 loads of laundry per week creates about 25 kg of carbon dioxide emissions. Also, wash in cold water rather than warm water.
  9. Air dry your clothes when possible, rather than using a dryer. Dryers not only damage the fabrics in the long run (and can shrink your clothes), but they also have a large carbon footprint.
  10. If you need to dry clean your clothes, ask for non-toxic cleaning detergents and solvents, such as GreenEarth solvent. 

The fashion industry has a large environmental footprint, but with technology such as blockchain, it is now easier for consumers to get direct access to brands’ manufacturing information. On top of that, we can use the various tools mentioned above to measure our own fashion footprint, and then follow the steps outlined to create a healthier planet.

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