The carbon footprint of getting dressed

3 December 2018

We focus on the three big things that affect climate change – energy, transport and food. But what about the bits people don’t necessarily think about, like the clothes you wear? Here's our look at the impact your everyday threads have on the environment.

What's the lifecycle carbon impact of your wardrobe?

From how they’re made to how they’re disposed of, every item of clothing produced has what’s called a lifecycle carbon impact. A lifecycle carbon impact is the potential amount of greenhouse gases released into the environment, from raw material extraction to the end of a product’s life (the ‘cradle to grave’ impact). This is measured in kilograms of CO2 eq (or carbon dioxide equivalent), a standard unit for measuring carbon footprints.

We looked at a simple get-up that anyone of us might wear to see what impact we’re dressing in:

  • Jeans - a pair of Levi 501 jeans will use 33.4kgCO2 eq
  • Pair of running trainers-  it’s estimated that the carbon footprint of a typical pair of running shoes made of synthetic materials is 14kgCO2 eq
  • Cotton t-shirt (made in China) - the average carbon footprint of a pure cotton shirt produced in China, throughout its lifecycle, is estimated as 8.771 kgCO2 eq
  • Polyamide/Polyester jacket - from cradle to grave will use 18kgCO2 eq
  • Underweareven the smallest item has an impact of 1.9kgCO2 eq

To wear this simple combo, you’re looking at a total of 76kgCO2 eq – that’s almost the equivalent of driving from London to Paris!

How to reduce the carbon impact of your clothes

So, what can we do to reduce the carbon footprint of the clothes we wear? Here are a few tips:   

  • Buy vintage and second-hand clothing.
  • When you’re buying new clothing, choose garments made from eco-friendly, natural fabrics such as bamboo, silk, organic cotton and hemp.
  • Invest in your clothes – it’s better in the long run to buy a good quality t-shirt than a cheap one that will rip straight away.
  • Instead of buying new clothes, give yours a makeover! Get crafty with some DIY to give them a new lease of life.
  • Buy faux – the production of wool, leather and fur harms millions of animals every year, and it's also bad for the environment.

You can find out more about how to make environmental and ethical shopping choices here.

And if you’re looking to cut your carbon footprint and fight climate change in a bigger way – switch to a green energy supplier too!

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