Fashion and deforestation

Taking a stroll in the woods and breathing the fresh oxygen is a good way to relax and connect to nature for all of us after a stressful day. Another activity that helps us recharge after a long day is going shopping. How are these connected? Have you ever considered the amount of trees that it takes to produce a garment that you are about to purchase? 

How is fashion connected to our forests?

Forests are a critical element for our survival and well-being, since they clean the air we breathe, they absorb CO2 emissions and work as a general stabilizer for the climate. More specifically, one third  of the CO2 released from burning fossil fuels is absorbed by forests every year. They also account for 80% of the  global terrestrial biodiversity habitats. These facts render them essential for our livelihood, therefore their preservation is vital. This is something that the fashion industry must consider in its supply chain management and sourcing.

Did you know that it takes about 70 to 100 million trees annually to produce textile fibres? Research shows that, still in 2020, 48% of fashion’s supply chain is linked with deforestation and whatever comes along with that (greenhouse emissions, endangered biodiversity etc.). 

The bad news is that the demand on cutting trees for fabric production is estimated to double by 2050. Also 70% of all clothing produced by such fibres ends up in landfills every year. That means that after all this exploitation of forests a mere 30% of clothing actually makes it to recycling.

Most of the wood-based fibres come from rainforests in Brazil, Indonesia and Canada causing severe wood depletion and putting the overall rainforests and their flora and fauna at risk of extinction. Fabrics from rainforests account for 5% of the total 1.2 trillion dollars in the textile industry globally. And unfortunately this number is growing at a 9% rate annually. 

What are the tree-based fibers in textile production?

Viscose is the most well-known fibre being produced by trees. Research shows that 71% of wood-based fibers are viscose, 20% modal and 9% lyocell. All these fibers are called cellulosic because they are created from cellulose, which can be found on tree pulp. What is also alarming is that in these fibers, a lot of chemical processes take place during their manufacturing. Chemicals that are extremely potent to the environment. So, it seems that the fashion industry needs to think twice before it includes another single tree in its sourcing since it is causing, not one, but two environmental issues: deforestation and chemical pollution due to the additives in wood-based fibers. 

 What is being done and by who?

Some sustainable efforts are being made by several brands. As the above numbers speak for themselves there is no more excuse for fashion brands to ignore their footprint on forests. Efforts include developing textiles made from next generation fibres such as recycled cotton, fungus and mushrooms or even recycled cellulose

Brands are also in discussions with suppliers, developers and producers  asking for transparency in supply chains and guarantee that even if they need to use tree-pulp, this should not be derived from endangered rainforests. Of course this is an ongoing procedure requiring a lot of regulations and licensing, but at least the industry started to become alarmed upon the matter. The goal, however, especially for high brands is certified collections. 

The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) recently released the campaign ‘Out of Fashion’ with the aim to better educate brands around matters of deforestation and its impact especially considering the fibers deriving from tree-pulp. Information about the procedure and production across the supply chain is also included and many famous brands like Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren are already taking part.

Veja is a French footwear brand that released the project “Rubber” setting high standards in its supply chain. The French brand uses 20 to 30% of Amazonian rubber in its shoe soles buying directly from Amazonian cooperatives with a goal to enhance the economic value of the forests and eventually protect them.

Stella McCartney has pledged to work with sustainable certified forests for its viscose sourcing ensuring that its clothing are not taking part in large scale deforestation and the procedure does not harm biodiversity. At the moment they are retrieving the viscose from sustainably certified forests in Sweden.

How does Kleiderly contribute?

At Kleiderly, we have made it our mission to reduce the amount of clothes ending up in landfills and incinerators. We want to give unwanted clothes and overproduction a new, sustainable life by turning them into clothing hangers. We solve two problems: Unwanted clothes and oil-based plastic use.



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