How is Deforestation Caused by the Fashion Industry?

When we talk about Fast Fashion’s environmental impact, I’m sure the first thing that comes to mind is the waste pollution associated with the clothing production. However, right beside the climate footprint is the deforestation footprint caused by this industry. 

First, it is important to note the importance of forests. They are responsible for life on Earth, to put plainly. According to the World Wildlife Fund, “They purify the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, prevent erosion, and act as an important buffer against climate change.” Essentially, we know that the world runs on a loop, and everything does its own job to reach that stage of equilibrium. 

As humans, one of the primary anthropologist causes of global warming is the abundance of carbon dioxide emissions. However, forests play a role in finding a middle ground (our CO2 release through inhaling their oxygen). And the circle continues. But you knew that already. 

Research shows that 48% of fashion’s supply chain is linked with deforestation. The demand on cutting trees for fabric production is estimated to double by 2050. 70% of all clothing produced by such fibers end  up in landfills every year. Landfills that are created after the major clear cutting of vital forests. According to Kleiderly, fabrics from rainforests account for 5% of the total 1.2 trillion dollars in the textile industry globally, with this number growing at a 9% rate annually. 

Furthermore, the clear cutting of forests for landfills and lack of carbon emission mediation do not begin to address the full human impact. According to non-profit Canopy, more than 200 million trees are logged each year to be transformed into cellulosic fabrics like viscose and rayon. The organization notes that if these trees were placed end-to-end, they would circle our planet seven times. We use trees to make fabrics for the clothes we use so mindlessly. These trees live for centuries, but they are being cut down for our 2 week-long garment trends. 

So now we know about the impacts; the question of what we can do remains. 

  1. Avoid all uncertified viscose and rayon
    1. Some of these products are specifically planted for garment creation, so its better to use these. 
  2. Use alternative sustainable material
    1. Tencel
      • Tencel is made from fast-growing Eucalyptus trees grown specifically to create the material
      • No biodiverse forest risk involved
      • Closed loop recycling 
    2. Ecovero
      • Made by the same company which created Tencel, Lenzing
      • Made from ‘certified renewable wood sources using an eco-responsible production process by meeting high environmental standards’
      • Manufactured with up to 50% fewer emissions and water impact than generic viscose

Check out my other blog: 9 Sustainable Fabrics To Be On The Lookout For for more on the fabrics perspective.

In the end, everything is related. We know the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, and this unfortunately does not stop at carbon emissions. 

The environment is interconnected, everything is an ecosystem- so if one part is impacted, the whole biosphere goes haywire. 

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