How the fashion industry is linked to the amazon rainforest wildfires

The Amazon rainforest, known as “The Lungs” of planet Earth, absorbs 2 billion tons of CO2 every year, about 5% of annual emissions, making it a key environmental neutralizer, doing much to prevent the growing harmful effects of climate change. However, as deforestation has continued to destroy the Amazon basin over the past century, the recent apocalyptic fires that have ravaged the rainforest, turning much of the jungle rich in wildlife and biodiversity to ashes, have captured the world’s attention.  

But how can this environmental disaster be linked with the fashion industry?

  A series of polluting industries are clearly linked to climate change, increasing the risk of fires due to the materials they use or their lack of interest in the levels of their CO2 emissions, among these the fashion industry certainly plays a fundamental role. A United Nations study concluded that the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of all water waste, making it the second most polluting industry in the world and has never invested so much in synthetic materials as it has done in the last decade.

There are two main reasons that link fashion to rainforest degradation: 

  • the first is where products, such as leather in particular, are made as a result of deforestation, of which Brazil and the Amazon are particularly affected.
  In fact, the South American country supplies about 22% of the world’s leather exports, making it the largest source of animal skins, of which the footwear industry is the single largest buyer.  
  • the second refers to products obtained directly from forests: artificial cellulose fabrics such as viscose, rayon and modal, as well as packaging.
Many brands within this industry have proclaimed themselves environmental guardians regarding fires in the Amazon, which is ironic as many of these fashion brands have created the surplus of supply and demand on fabrics derived from crude oil. The undeniable fact is: fast fashion brands that create collections using nylon, polyester and a range of polymers are responsible for the overproduction of synthetic materials that make them the most used plastics in the world. The fires in the Amazon have confronted the world with the devastating effects of polluting industries. Plastic fashion contributes the most to the emissions of the fashion industry with endless landfills filled with chemical leaks, water pollution and greenhouse gases along the entire supply chain, from production to disposal.  

The time has come for the fashion industry to take stock of its role in these environmental crises and make fundamental changes.

A first start may be to create clothes using natural materials but less “well made” garments at a time when consumers demand more variety and affordable clothing. Materials such as viscose, polyester, or elastane are as much cheaper as they are dangerous for the environment: starting to invest in more eco-friendly materials is certainly a greater expense for the fashion industry, but it can lead to great changes! Another step may be to replace the trade in untraceable synthetic clothing with clothing made from biodegradable materials of good origin and with transparent supply chains: traceability and supply-chain transparency are more important than ever. Finally, a final suggestion would be to start taking initiatives towards sustainability and the well-being of the planet to tackle global warming, restore biodiversity and preserve the oceans. These are big changes that can easily be brought about by big industries like fashion, so we expect fashion to take a step towards sustainability.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *