Fashion and the Environment

by Maria Burgos

Fashion and the Environment

Woman in white dress holding a hat walking on a flower field


Picture by freepik / senivpetro

Chances are, you've heard a lot about climate change and global warming. These concepts have been around for decades. I remember when I was in elementary school and learned about the impact of aerosols on the atmosphere. Somehow at that time, it seemed to me as a little girl that the responsibility was not in my hands, but rather in those manufacturing companies that knowingly produced these types of harmful products. It felt like a distant problem to be solved by others.

As the years passed, those problems only got bigger, and they seemed to be even more complex. But then, I started to hear more about our individual contribution and that we leave a footprint with our actions, called "the carbon footprint." I'll refresh your memory (and mine) just in case: the carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases generated by our actions. A greenhouse gas (GHG) is any gas in the atmosphere capable of absorbing infrared radiation, thereby trapping and holding heat in the atmosphere. By doing this, these gases ultimately lead to global warming (remember last summer when you complained about how much hotter it was and how crazy it seemed? Well, it's the global warming effect.)

Since the Industrial Revolution, GHG emissions have contributed to atmospheric warming that has lifted global temperatures by around 1.1 degrees. The warming has caused more frequent risks, including flooding, fires, droughts, and storms, leading to socioeconomic impacts, like living and working conditions, food systems, and natural capital. If temperatures continue their upward trajectory, these adverse effects will likely become more severe over the coming years.1

Climate change is such an important global topic that over five years ago, 196 parties decided to take action and signed The Paris Agreement , a legally international binding document to limit global warming to well below 2°C. To achieve this goal, countries aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate-neutral World by mid-century.

The Fashion Industry has a significant impact on GHG, and it needs to act now. Research shows it contributes to 4% of the total emissions, equivalent to the combined annual GHG emissions of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom

While 60% of these emissions can be reduced in upstream activities (such as materials production, preparation, and processing), in particular from increased use of renewable energy and sustainable materials, 20% relies upon brands own operation, and the other 20% is related to consumer behavior: our sustainable behavior. According to a McKenzie report, by 2030, these efforts will need to have created a significantly reformed fashion landscape, in which, for example, one out of five garments is traded through a circular business model. Brands and retailers will need to support and collaborate with value chain players to invest for the long-term benefit of society and the environment.1

Circular business models are key decarbonization levers because of their ability to extend product life, enable recycling and reduce the need for new and finite resources in production.

Currently, the primary vehicle for this model is re-commerce, representing around 7% of the market. Over the next ten years, resale segments, including consignment shops, managed, and peer-to-peer marketplaces could grow at over 10% the compound annual growth rate (CAGR), likely representing 12% of the market by 2030.

Trendy Seconds will play a part in this effort by serving as an extra sales channel for marketplaces and brands that focus on second-hand and new sustainable clothes. For the shoppers, we will provide an easy-to-use Fashion Discovery Site, where you can search from different sources at once, mix & match pieces together and get recommendations to complete the look.

We aim to facilitate consumers' sustainable shopping experience, which can currently be overwhelming by having to browse thousands of unique items in the second-hand market and require a lot of research for sustainable brands.

As consumers, we must also play our part in driving industry decarbonization efforts through our purchasing decisions. When provided with information, we can choose products with lower emissions footprints.

We can embrace circular business models to extend the life of fashion products (up to 1.7x by shopping pre-owned), therefore reducing production-related emissions and adopting sustainable usage and end-of-use behaviors. For example: if you're not using some garments anymore, don't throw them away, you can re-sell them, swap them with your friends or donate them to someone who needs it. Reducing the washing and drying of the pieces also helps.

The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the World's highest rates. Globally, the average is closer to 4 tons. To have the best chance of avoiding a 2℃ rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop under 2 tons by 2050.

Now, I know that you must be asking yourself how you can calculate your carbon footprint and what to do to reduce it? Luckily, we are living in the information age. Technology and Science have advanced so fast that today we have all the knowledge of the World literally at our fingertips. This fact allows us to take a more active role in contributing to those causes we know can have a considerable impact not only in our individual lives but on everyone else's, and how cool is that? Here's an easy-to-use carbon footprint calculator .

Knowing that we can make better choices to help and not just rely on others gives me a lot of hope. Since we started Trendy Seconds, we have embraced the mission of raising awareness about responsible clothing consumption, providing solutions and ideas that we all can implement to help.

By daring to change, collaborate, and embrace new ways of conscious consumption, we can transform the industry while respecting nature's boundaries, protecting biodiversity, and creating prosperity for people and communities.

We are ready to do our part, are you?

Maria F. Burgos
Founder & CEO

Source: 1. McKenzie Report: Fashion on Climate. How the Fashion Industry Can Urgently Act to Reduce its Greenhouse Gas Emissions. 2020.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.