The process of producing clothing impacts the environment at every step, from the land to the factory. Conventionally grown cotton is a water and pesticide-dependent crop, according to Cotton Incorporated, the U.S. cotton growers’ group. Cotton production in Bangladesh and India is particularly harmful to the environment, with waste products dumping into a stagnant pond. Even small amounts of the chemicals used to manufacture the fabrics can have a big impact.
According to a recent survey, approximately 80 billion pieces of clothing are purchased every year, amounting to more than $1.2 trillion in annual fashion waste. Approximately 80 percent of that waste is sent to landfills. This means that the fashion industry contributes to a third of all the waste produced worldwide. Most clothing is assembled in low-income countries, like Bangladesh, and is sent to landfills. The unsold clothes are sorted and resized and eventually end up as solid waste, polluting rivers, greenways, parks, and other areas.
A McKinsey study found that a consumer’s average time between washing clothes is now half that of 2000. In the US, forty-one percent of young women felt the need to change their clothes before leaving their homes. The fashion industry is responsible for 10 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and twenty percent of global wastewater. Fashion also uses more energy than the aviation and shipping industries combined. Globally, the fashion industry consumes 93 billion tons of clean water each year, the equivalent of half of the water Americans drink in a single year.
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