Sustainable Fashion webinar – summary and key messages

In June 2020 we hosted a webinar on ‘Sustainable Fashion – the environmental impacts of the clothing sector and what we can do about it’, with Kim Polgreen (Sustainability Educator) and Stephen Cawley (former Head of Sustainability at John Lewis). 

A recording of the webinar is available here and you can access the slides here: Kim Polgreen and Stephen Cawley.

We have summarised key messages from the webinar on this page and provide links to further information and resources at the end.

The environmental impact of the clothing industry

  • Total greenhouse gas emissions from clothing production and disposal account for about 10% of annual carbon emissions, more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
  • Half of fast fashion produced is disposed of in under a year.
  • It takes as much water to make one T shirt as a person drinks in 2 years
  • Fashion is the second most polluting industry. It causes 20% of global water pollution.
  • A quarter of all chemicals used in the world is used in textiles.
  • Washing clothes releases half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres into the ocean every year, equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles.

What can we do?

  • Buy less
  • Rent
  • Buy carefully, from responsible brands, lower impact fabrics.
  • Buy recyclable.
  • Return for up/ recycling.
  • Wear more times.
  • Swap.
  • Wash less.
  • Write to retailers and spread the word!

Some examples of responsible/ sustainable brands

Patagonia, Thought, Lucy&Yak, House of Sunny, Pangaia, SZ Blockprints, We are what we wear, Birdsong, Noctu, Girlfriend Collective, Franks London, Project Pico. High Street: H&M, Ted Bakaer, J.Crew, M&S, John Lewis.

Re-use or rent: Rent the Runway, Global Fashion Exchange, Thrift+, ThredUp, SwopItUp

Return and recycle, e.g. Rapanui, Mud Jeans

John Lewis – market research

2/5 of babyboomers say they’re willing to pay more for sustainable products

2/3 of consumers say they would shop more regularly with brand or retailer if there was a recycling programme or other way to minimize impact

60% of young people prefer to buy from companies trying to reduce their environmental impact

Most generation z will not buy from companies or brands that do not align with their values

Babyboomers, millenials and generation z are most likely to buy second hand

Brands are rushing to get there first: H&M (repair services), Zalando (recycle), Zara (2025 100% sustainability target), Northface (lifetime warranty), Asos (market place), Adidas (circular footwear), Patagonia (reconditioned products).

John Lewis – buy-back pilot

Customers can resell clothes back to John Lewis with zero landfill.

Includes reworking/ recycling, repairs, vintage.

Other sustainability initiatives include removal of plastic bags, bubble wrap, return of hangers, recycling of beauty product containers, recycling/ reuse for sofas.

Find out more

WRAP: “The Cost of UK Clothes – Valuing our Fashion”

Ellen Macarthur Foundation: “A New Textiles Economy : Redesigning Fashion’s Future”

Earth Logic Fashion Action Research