Updated: Oct 22, 2020
by Joyce Hu
This is a little known fact, even among fashion and agriculture industry professionals. The connection to deforestation in fashion is obvious with paper and cardboard packaging. But this connection with trees and rayon (or viscose) is less transparent. And, up to 30% of rayon comes from endangered forests.
Trees and rainforests are the lungs of our planet. Stopping deforestation is 30% of the solution to slowing the most devastating and irreversible effects of climate change. Yet, we keep destroying them faster than ever.
50% of deforestation is driven by our food demand (for example palm oil and large scale farming). As our rate of consumption for food, fashion and stuff grow exponentially year after year, we are losing a forest area the size of New York City every 48 hours. The destruction of forests is the second largest source of CO2 emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector.
The fashion and textile industry as a whole also contributes 5% - 10% of all global greenhouse gas emissions with the energy needed to produce the world's demand for fast fashion. The amount of environmental damage from processing raw materials, dying, finishing and garment construction is devastating to at-risk communities around the world. We are quickly destroying the only home we know, faster than most of us really understand. The multitude of natural disasters and extreme weather patterns are making it more real.
2018 Climate Works Foundation Study: Measuring Fashion: Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries
“Together the apparel and footwear industries generated between 5 and 10% of global pollution impacts in 2016. Footwear alone represents approximately one-fifth the impact of the apparel industry, about 1.4% of global climate impacts (700 million metric tons CO2eq), while apparel represents 6.7% of global climate impacts (3,290 million metric tons CO2eq). Combined, they account for an estimated 8.1% of global climate impacts (3,990 million metric tons CO2eq).”
We as an industry and as consumers can do better.
Look for sustainable rayon from Lenzing: Modal, Tencel, Proviscose, EcoVero, VeoCel.
Opt for recycled nylon like Econyl.
Choose natural fibers like linen, hemp and organic cotton.
Take steps to clean up your own closet.
Spread the word about your favorite sustainable products and brands.
Learn more. Did you know that our oceans absorb 1/4 of the atmosphere’s CO2 and gives us 50% of our oxygen. We also need to protect our oceans.
Continue to educate yourself (learn from our speakers, like those who spoke at our Farm to Field panel), buy slower and we can pass on a better world to our kids and grandkids!