Clothes are easy to ignore because they are made far away and have throughout history been made by enslaved, unpaid and low-paid laborers, often by women. But clothing affects every other environmental problem we care about. Let’s say you wear a cotton T-shirt — it required thousands of gallons of water to make. If that T-shirt is viscose rayon, it may well have come from a tree felled in the Amazon (viscose rayon is made from plants). And if it’s polyester, acrylic or nylon, you’re wearing plastic. When those plastic clothes get washed, they junk up our oceans with microplastic pollution.
Fortunately, some clothing companies are waking up to the climate crisis. A growing number of brands are bowing to grass-roots pressure and consumer surveys that show that sustainability and ethics are top concerns for young shoppers. In August, at the Group of 7 summit, 32 clothing brands got together to set “science-based targets” for emission reductions. Since then, two dozen more brands have signed this so-called Fashion Pact. Kering, the luxury conglomerate that owns Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, has set a goal for all of its brands to go carbon-neutral.
But fashion can’t go green on its own. It won’t even make a dent in the problem without international cooperation and mainstream attention.
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