Textile production has a major environmental impact. Conventional cotton growing, where large quantities of insecticides are spread directly on land, stands out as a particularly heavy burden on the environment.
Choosing eco-labeled clothes makes a difference. There are several cotton labels. However, eco-cotton labels only indicate that the cotton was organically grown – they say nothing about the rest of the production process (dyeing and treatment). The major environmental impact is found in post-fiber processing stages: spinning, weaving, knitting and, above all, in the dyeing – the wet processing.
In industrialized countries, only a tiny percentage of garments are worn 100 to 200 times, which is usually the potential lifetime. In Sweden, for example, consumers buy an average of 50 new garments per person and year. Similar figures apply to the rest of Europe and the United States.
Textiles that are made of cellulose from trees and plants are an important track in research and development to close the loop so that the textile industry becomes sustainable. Viscose, modal and Lyocell/Tencel are examples of such textiles that are already available and whose environmental performance is often good. When consumers buy used clothing instead of new, the environmental benefit is substantial.
Online shopping is generally a very good alternative from the environmental perspective.