The Environmental Impact Of Fashion

The Environmental Impact Of Fashion

The clothing we wear has an environmental cost in terms of the energy, water, land and chemicals used when raw fibres are grown or made and during production when the fibres are processed into yarn, transported, dyed, printed and made into clothes.

The information below is extracted from ‘Fixing fashion: Clothing Consumption and Sustainability’ an environmental audit report that was published in 2019 by the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee.  The audit highlights the urgent need for reform in the fashion industry whilst promoting strategies to encourage all of us to repair, re-wear or reuse where possible.

At Best Dressed Bears, we believe that sustainable fashion should be just as important for teddy bears as it is for humans and we encourage all of our customers to, where possible, upcycle their old clothing into unique clothes for their much loved bears.

The Environmental Cost of Fashion:

Energy and climate:  Textile production is a major contributor to climate change. It produces an estimated 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) per year – more than international flights and maritime shipping combined.

Water consumption:  Globally, the fashion industry consumes an estimated 79 billion cubic metres of fresh water annually. The growing and production of fibres consumes the greatest quantity of water. Water is also used for dyeing, finishing and washing clothes.

Cotton is one of the thirstiest fibres and accounts for 69% of the water footprint of fibre production. One kilogram of cotton – equivalent to the weight of a shirt and pair of jeans – can take as much as 10,000–20,000 litres (or between 3-6 years’ worth of drinking water*) to produce, depending on where in the world it is grown.

Pollution of Rivers:  Textile production is responsible for high volumes of water containing hazardous chemicals being discharged into rivers and water courses.  Twenty percent of industrial water pollution globally is attributable to the dyeing and treatment of textiles.

Local Communities:  The water scarcity exacerbated by cotton production in arid regions has an impact on local communities especially in low income countries.  Major cotton producing countries such as China and India are already suffering from medium to high levels of water stress in certain areas and some cotton growing nations may soon face the dilemma of choosing between cotton production and securing clean drinking water.

Land use:   The use of land for the production of natural fibres can be a cause of deforestation and biodiversity loss. The fashion industry is projected to use 35% more land for fibre production by 2030.

Soil Acidity: Cotton is the most widely used natural fibre and is often grown using insecticides.  Nitrogen rich fertilisers are used in cotton agriculture which increase soil acidity.

Greenhouse Gases:  Petroleum based synthetic fibres like polyester have less impact on water and land than cotton, but they emit more greenhouse gasses per kilogram. According to one academic analysis, a polyester shirt has more than double the carbon footprint of a cotton shirt.


The above is just a small snippet from the report.  We would encourage everyone to read it to understand fashion's impact on our planet and implore you to repair, re-wear and upcycle clothing wherever possible. 

The report can be found here:


* based on a minimum requirement of 7.5 litres per person per day (WHO report 2003

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