The Economist explains The environmental costs of creating clothes – M.S.L.J. The Economist April 2017


People are buying more clothes than ever before—and chucking them out too

People are buying more clothes than ever before—and chucking them out too

LOOKING good can be bad for the planet. Massive amounts of energy, water and other resources are needed to make clothes. From the pesticides poured on cotton fields to the washes in which denim is dunked, making 1kg of fabric generates 23kg of greenhouse gases on average, reckons McKinsey, a consultancy. Because consumers keep almost every type of apparel only half as long as they did 15 years ago, these inputs go to waste faster than ever before. More than half of the fastest-fashion items made are chucked away within a year of production. But such rampant retail therapy costs the earth.

Global clothing production doubled between 2000 and 2014 as garment firms’ operations became more efficient, their production cycles sped up and shoppers got better bargains. Global clothing sales came to $1.8trn in 2015, according to Greenpeace, up from $1trn in 2002. Fast-fashion brands such as Zara, owned by Spain’s Inditex, now offer more than 20 lines a year; Sweden’s H&M manages up to 16. Making do and mending is out of fashion.

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