As my first month draws to a close, with Christmas and Black Friday both looming and all its consumer-driven madness, what better a time to introduce myself, my drive for a low carbon fashion industry and what all this means for NCBI in 2020.
Sustainability has always been part of my DNA, and whilst I’ve always loved fashion, even returning to college to train as a fashion designer, it was where my journey into eco-fashion (as sustainable fashion term had yet to be coined) began.
As I started to unearth the societal and environmental impacts of this industry I knew my professional path was set as I did not want to work in an industry that came at a cost to either humanity or our planet.
For over 10 years now I have dedicated my professional career to highlighting the impacts of this industry and returning to college once again to attain sustainability credentials. Now a qualified sustainability professional, 2020 will see my research on “Fashion and Climate Change” published and I look forward to continuing my sustainability journey at NCBI.
Fashion and the Environment, why should we care?
The fashion industry, in its current linear form, is unsustainable and is now confirmed as one of the world’s biggest contributors to climate change.
The global industry is reported to account for between 8% and 10% of the world’s annual carbon emissions.
In 2015, greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production totalled 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 which was more than that of all international flights and maritime shipping combined. In addition, with consumer demand for new clothing growing exponentially (fast fashion), experts predict that the fashion industry could account for a quarter of global emissions by 2040.
The carbon footprint of a garment largely depends on the material it is made from. Polyester for example, a synthetic material may have less impact on water and land than grown materials like cotton, but emits more greenhouse gasses per kilogram as it relies on high volumes of non-renewable finite resource such as crude oil.
In Ireland, many (non-sourced) figures float about as to the quantity of textiles we dispose of annually (figures ranging from 225,000 to 250,000 tonnes). The truth is, these figures have been collected from different sources and are roughly estimated so it is difficult to confirm. However, we do know that as a nation in 2018, 80,000 tonnes of textiles were discarded of through our black bins which of course are then destined for landfill or incineration, a figure that has startingly doubled since 2008.
What’s wrong with clothing in landfill you wonder? A polyester dress will sit in a landfill from 200 to 450 years, the same as plastic.
Sustainability and the Charity Store
We are now living in an environmentally conscious era and the charity store stands at the forefront of reuse and sustainability. The charity retail sector has been quite humble to accept the accolade of sustainability. 2020 will see the rise of sustainability in the charity retail sector.
Every year we produce and on average 100 to 120 billion garments globally of which 70% end up in landfill or incinerated. The most sustainable thing you can do as a consumer is to keep items in circulation for as long as possible. Purchasing (or donating) an item from an NCBI store will extend its lifespan and will reduce its carbon footprint by on average 30-40%.
By simply reusing 1kg of used clothing we can save:
3,6kg of Co2 emissions 6000l of water consumption 0,3 kg of the use of fertilizers 0,2kg of the use of pesticides
Every month, NCBI, on average reuses approximately 70,000 kg of clothing saving 252,000kg of CO2 and 420 million litres of water.
Sustainable shopping doesn’t stop at the till, how we care and dispose of our clothing should also be considered in order for us to create a holistic sustainable wardrobe. Caring for our clothing has huge environmental impacts with textile microfiber pollution now becoming a very topical subject, one wash of clothing can release up to 700,000 microfibers into our water systems, invest in a guppy bag or cora ball to catch these microfibers.
Other things to think of is to lower the temperature of your wash to 30 degrees which can help you can save up to 40% of electricity over 1 year and don’t forget to switch to natural washing detergents/soaps to avoid any nasty chemicals.
Sustainability at NCBI
With companies facing greater demands for transparency across its supply chain, with societal challenges such as poverty and inequality as well as natural resource constraints, building a sustainability strategy is now critical for the future of all businesses including charities.
At a recent conference, the keynote speaker highlighted that sustainability must be CEO led and to which I couldn’t agree more. It is wonderful to come on board and work with an organisation led by such a visionary CEO Chris White who is not only supporting but pushing the sustainability agenda.
2020 will see NCBI Retail launch a sustainability strategy, where we will focus on the adoption of circular fashion business models, improve sourcing and traceability, lower our carbon emissions across our distribution and supply chain and effectively communicate our impact thus establishing NCBI as the sustainable charity of choice for Ireland.
Carrie Ann Moran