For many of us it’s been great fun to have access, and cheap(ish) access, to changing fashion trends. We buy clothes every season that we can replace the next without breaking our bank accounts. But this fast fashion comes at a cost to the people making those clothes and to the environment. Last week the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe held a summit on fashion and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. In its report, “Fashion and the SDGs: what role for the UN?” these facts were the most astonishing:

10 percent of the global carbon emissions are emitted by the apparel industry

This $2.5 trillion-dollar industry is the second highest user of water worldwide, producing 20 percent of global water waste;

The production of one cotton shirt requires 2700 litres – the amount a person drinks in 2.5 years;

Cotton farming is responsible for 24 percent of insecticides and 11 percent of pesticides despite using only 3 percent of the world’s arable land;

One in 6 people in the world works in a fashion related job

Cotton production across the globe severely degrades soil quality;

As far as waste is concerned, 85 percent of textiles are sent to landfills, i.e. 21 billion tons a year;

80 percent of the labour force throughout the supply chain are women;

On average 40 percent of clothes in our wardrobes are never worn

The average consumer is now purchasing 60 percent more items of clothing compared to 2000. Each garment is kept half as long as in 2000;

By 2030, there will be 5.4 billion people in the global middle class, up from 3 billion in 2015. This will lead to an increased demand for clothes and other goods that define middle-income lifestyles;

If consumption continues at its current rate, there will be three times as many natural resources needed by 2050 compared to what was used in 2000.

We need to slow down fashion, and produce it more sustainably.

Source: UNECE 

Photo Credit: Melody, Jacob, Pexels