Clothes in a store

When you shop for new clothes, you’re probably not thinking about the climate. But making apparel creates carbon pollution, and the industry’s emissions are on the rise as people buy – and discard – their clothes more frequently.

The problem is made worse by the rise of fast fashion – clothes that are cheap to make and cheap to buy.

But Chendan Yan of the World Resources Institute says apparel companies are starting to take climate action.

“Many companies globally are setting targets and then really trying very hard to reach those targets,” she says.

Yan coauthored a paper that can guide the industry. She says the biggest challenge is that clothing brands often outsource manufacturing to companies in other countries. Those companies may rely on others for raw materials, which makes it hard to measure and reduce carbon pollution.

“So what a lot of these brands are doing is to educate and engage these suppliers,” she says. “I think that’s what we want to see and we’re seeing more and more.”

For example, Levi-Strauss helps its suppliers obtain low-interest loans for renewable energy or efficiency projects. And Nike is helping manufacturers switch from fossil fuels to solar and biomass.

Yan says as more suppliers get involved, it will help reduce carbon pollution throughout the industry.

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.