We’ve heard about deforestation caused by the mass production of products such as palm oil and timber, but the fashion industry leaves a destructive footprint in our precious forests too. But in a time where we shop online and things land at our doorstep almost instantly, the connection between fashion and the lungs of the earth might not be a clear one.
Fashion’s impact on forests comes mainly from the production of textiles. There are many fabrics are derived from plant pulps or from plants themselves. These can be found in our shirts and pants, right down to the rubber in our shoes. Common ones include viscose, rayon, modal and lyocell. The forest campaign group Canopy revealed that dissolving-pulp (the base material for rayon/viscose) wastes approximately 70% of the tree and involves a chemically intensive manufacturing process.
Plant pulp is not the only footprint that intensive fashion production has on forests, with cotton being a big culprit for land clearing. Given that, approximately half of all textiles are made of cotton we can begin to see the kind of impacts this can have.
To shine a light on the urgency of the threat fashion poses to forests across the planet, Canopy has launched the CanopyStyle campaign, engaging brands and promoting awareness around the increasing issues of endangered species and disappearing forests. The program also looks to develop new innovations for clothing waste, such as the fibres from disposed clothing, or resources such a straw to replace the high demand for these currently forest-derived materials.
The drive to protect our forests is urgent, and not just for endangered species such as Orangutans. Forests play a big role in the more complex ecosystems of our planet, and the balance of the gases in our atmosphere. Not only do forests produce the oxygen we breathe, they are efficient at cleaning our air too. In fact, Approximately 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide – one-third of the CO2 released from burning fossil fuels – is absorbed by forests every year. These beautiful landscapes have a big job to do, especially as we see the increasing effects of climate change.
150 million trees are logged and turned into fabric every year. If placed end to end, these trees would circle our earth’s equator 7 times over. It’s a big problem, and with fast fashion increasingly shaping our purchasing behaviours we need big solutions!Canopy
Sustainable alternatives that support the forest:
Fortunately, we are seeing a shift in the fashion industry to promoting more sustainable practices and a large sense of advocacy for the natural environment. These brands ensure forests are not destroyed in their processes, or work to replenish and revegetate these ecosystems. Here are some notable brands doing their bit.