Retail and the manufacturing of textiles are two of the largest industries in the world. Almost all people have the need for clothes and most of those people need a place to buy them. The market for clothes is shared by every country on Earth. According to Marketline, a database for statistics related to industry, the total global value of textile mills in 2015 was $667.5 billion with a predicted growth rate of 4.8% from 2015 to 2020 (Sheng Lu, 2015). This is only the global value of the production of textiles. The retail market for these goods was valued at $842.7 in 2016. This market is also growing (the growth rate from 2015 to 2020 is predicted to be 3.6%) (Sheng Lu, 2015). These massive industries both have large environmental impacts. There have been some measures to reduce these impacts, both by governments and apparel companies.
Textile manufacturing and apparel retail contribute to environmental degradation in a number of ways. Combined, those two industries contribute about 8% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. That is a staggering proportion of global emissions. Textiles also contribute to the size of landfills. Most clothes are disposed of, rather than recycled. The creation of clothing also leads to waste that can find it self in oceans. Overall, the clothing industry needs to massively decrease its impact on the environment if it hopes to not contribute to the destruction of the planet.
There are some brands that I like which try to reduce the environmental impact normally associated with the production of clothing. There are some recognizable brands, like Patagonia, that have taken major strides towards being environmentally responsible. Part of Patagonia’s work has been financially and structurally supporting environmental organizations and activists. They also emphasize using recycled materials and new materials that are sourced responsibly, meaning that they have a lower impact relative to conventionally sourced materials. A measure that they have taken that I find practical and admirable is a program called Worn Wear. This initiative allows customers to have their garments repaired so that they do not buy new ones to replace damaged ones. Although Patagonia is one of the most popular environmentally responsible clothing brands, there are many other companies that have similar values. One of my favorite of such brands is Noah.
One thing that Patagonia’s Worn Wear makes clear is that the amount of waste created from old clothing is unnecessary. Much of the clothing we dispose of is repairable, or at least worth donating to someone else. Just like many people have become conscious of recycling paper and plastic, we have to understand the impacts that wasting clothes has. I believe that we should value the clothes we purchase and understand that they exist before and after we possess them. Before we purchase an item of clothing there are a number of environmental consequences associated with its production and after we get rid of an item it doesn’t just disappear.
Market Size of the Global Textile and Apparel Industry: 2015 to 2020