Have you ever thought that the clothes you wear may have an impact on our climate? Here are five things you need to know about sustainable fashion. Play your part in helping to save our environment for the next generations.

1.How does fashion affect climate change? 

Fashion makes a sizeable contribution to climate change. The textile industry is the second greatest polluter of local freshwater in the world. The industry is also responsible for producing 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions per year, which is more than international flights and maritime shipping (Nature). Large clothing manufacturers rely on coal-fuelled power plants which increase the carbon footprint. Decomposing clothes in landfill releases methane; a harmful greenhouse gas.

The fashion industry has a much bigger impact on our climate than we may think. It contributes to an astonishing 10% of total global emissions (European Parliament). Since fashion is our choice, we can make certain changes today, such as buying fewer clothes or opting for more sustainable brands to help save our planet. 


2.What is sustainable fashion? 

Sustainable fashion is about designing, producing, and distributing clothes in an environmentally sustainable way. 

Following the current fashion trends involving low prices and cheap raw materials, clothing and the “disposable” culture of fast fashion are damaging the environment. Shifting to more sustainable and environmentally friendly methods or slow fashion is becoming a global movement, promoting slow production and consumption, while respecting people, animals, and the environment in a sustainable way. 

3.What can we do to support sustainable fashion? 

Fashion is not simply a matter of clothes, but a form of self-expression. What does your personal fashion choice say about your view on climate change? 

Buying second-hand clothes, converting clothes waste into something new, and turning clothes waste into a reusable, quality material are some examples of how we can “Reuse – Recycle – Upcycle”. 

While we play our part in minimising fashion waste, many brands are also starting to adopt fashion innovation in different ways. For example, zero-waste design, (the practice of designing with little to no fabric waste), nanotechnology (the use of nano-sized particles to improve fabric properties for more functional use and durability), and environmentally friendly fibres and dyes (the use of biodegradable materials and dyes and innovative fibres from waste).

4.Get to know Thai sustainable fashion artisans  

Many brands are starting to adopt a more environmentally friendly production process using sustainable materials. The British Council advocates environmental sustainability through craft by supporting artisans and craft networks throughout Thailand to strengthen sustainable practices. We also work with the Fashion Revolution, a global charity advocating vital changes in the fashion industry to achieve a more responsible and sustainable future for all.

Here are some of the artisans we work with: 

  • Bhukram – Founded by Pilan Thaisuang, Bhukham uses natural-dyed, hand-embroidered cotton from Phu Pan, Sakon Nakhon. Her business also helps to improve the livelihoods of local women.
  • Wanita – Wanita is a craft development project for women and girls in the south of Thailand under the Wanita network. Wanita’s products are made from local natural materials such as bamboo, using traditional weaving techniques and patterns.
  • Tai Lue – Tai Lue are aiming to revitalise the cultural identity and textiles of the Tai Lue community in Pua District, Nan Province. They focus on design and cultural identity, the transfer of skills and traditional knowledge, awareness of environmentally friendly materials, and manufacturing processes to provide a sustainable business model.

5.What is being done to support sustainable fashion? 

Under the auspices of UN Climate Change, the Fashion Charter for Climate Action was established to drive the fashion industry towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It is also aiming for a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Leading up to the COP26 in Glasgow, UK, during November 2021, the British Council, in partnership with Fashion Revolution, will work to deliver “Fashion Open Studio International”; an event showcasing between six and ten emerging designers who are exploring and championing sustainable design in their work.

The outputs will include contributions from architecture, design, and fashion sector experts in the UK, with a focus on voices under the age of 35. We are currently planning to showcase these young fashion designers at COP 26. Read more here. 

Source: UNFCCC 

This article is part of British Council’s Climate Connection programme, bringing people together from around the world to meet the challenges of climate change through arts and culture, education, and the English language. The programme focuses on the promotion of ideas, innovation, and real change.