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Here’s How Sustainable Sweden’s Fashion Industry Is

H&M closed loop textiles denim

Mistra Future Fashion (MFF) in Sweden is setting the bar for both the Swedish fashion industry and its stakeholders.

The cross-disciplinary research program announced results of the “Clarifying Sustainable Fashion” project, an initiative launched to refine the definition of sustainable fashion, assist the greater fashion sphere’s environmental performance and strengthen the Swedish fashion industry’s global competitiveness.

The project involved five key garments evaluated under Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), a globally accepted structure that rates the environmental impacts of a product’s life cycle from start to finish. LCA tracks the sustainability of a product from raw material extraction, to material processing, to product manufacture, to distribution, to use, to disposal and finally to recycling. A T-shirt, a pair of jeans, a dress, a jacket and a hospital uniform were the selected garments for MFF’s endeavor.

“One average use” of each garment was analyzed to determine the environmental impact of life cycle phases. Factors that determined each garment’s environmental impact rating included water use, non-renewable energy use, agricultural land occupation, carbon footprint, freshwater eco-toxicity, freshwater eutrophication (a form of water pollution), human toxicity, photochemical oxidant formation (secondary air pollutants) and acidification. Each garment’s environmental impact score was scaled up to represent the total Swedish national clothing consumption for 12 months.

According to the study, the average Swedish person’s carbon footprint is 10 tonnes carbon dioxide-equivalents annually. Overall, the transition from fashion to total carbon footprint is only 2.5 percent in 2016, but this textile consumption impact needs to be reduced greatly to keep Earth in good shape.

A garment’s lifespan provides helpful insight about improvements needed for sustainable fashion. The study revealed that if the practical lifespan of the average garment was increased by a factor of three, the carbon footprint and water use are reduced by 65 percent and 66 percent. If this were the case, people globally would assist environmental efforts instead of contributing to unnecessary garment waste.

By providing the global population with clothing recycle resources and reducing transportation in the process, the fashion industry will keep our planet clean and also produce sustainable clothing to help, not harm nature.