Does fashion have a carbon price tag?
I have been silent for some time after an extremely intense period where I have shared the contents of the Wardrobe in My Crisis with over 1000 participants ( mostly university students) in pursuit of bringing some light into the impact that the fashion industry has on our global social, environmental and economic challenges. There are many loose ends to the solutions and most marketing campaigns of brands come across as green-washing rather than providing science based targets that could be verified. We talk about this problem all the time and seem to highlight the same dead-ends over and over. Vague pledges about reducing emissions, influencers who are excited by brands claiming their climate friendly collections can change the industry keep on vocalizing the eco-friendly do's and don'ts lists to finger point to the individuals only to leave them helpless and confused (also guilty) It is not working.
There needs to be a fee associated with the impact that the industry is making - we are already paying the extremely high price for all this complex destruction and it is time that we realize that there is a price tag. Fashion is linked to agriculture, natural resource pollution, exploitation of labour and these cost layers are not reflected in the price tag of a product. This needs to change now if we are sincere about the change.
Back in the 1980s in my hometown in Istanbul, I could enjoy a nice chilled swim after a 10 minute stroll from home - by the 2000s the joy of swimming was replaced by admiring the scenery from a distance as the water became too polluted. In 2021 the sea snot which covered the surface as well as the depths of the Marmara Sea put an end to the picnics by the water. The root-cause of the sea-snot is the changes in the biological cycle of phytoplanktons which are consumed by the zoo-planktons. I am not an expert on the subject but I have done some reading to understand the how and the why. The reasons why we are seeing the phytoplanktons accumulate are multiple and a part has got to do with fashion. Tekirdag region ( Trachka) is home to multiple dye houses, laundries, textile manufacturers and most of the waste is let into the Ergene river basin where the colour of the water has turned to a murky black. The sea snot is a symptom of how we have come to exercise human power, profits over nature, and take for granted the health and wellbeing of generations to come. This has to end. Since the beginning of the sea snot appearance early spring the prices of the properties in the manufacturing zones with waste water treatment have doubled; yet the ones without still remain operational. The textile manufacturing waste is flooded into river beds which open up to the oceans and although the waste reaches the oceans through deep drainage, the impact surfaces sooner or later.
The fashion industry has to come to terms with how destructive it has become and acknowledge its link to the climate crisis and to start acting in urgency. It's a brand's responsibility to make sure that it operates on a sustainable supply chain - it is a brand's responsibility to make sure that the people who make its clothes can live a decent life. I am not naive enough to think that all brands will act responsibly at will and we will surely need to devise legislation and education. There is an urgency that we cannot dismiss. We are simply diminishing our future at the expense of accumulation of a throw away lifestyle. This has to stop. %70 of the oxygen we breathe is produced by the ocean and the Oceans are humanities common good. The water is linked to other water resources - it is not one region or country that is endangered - this concerns all of us.
The EU has taken a big leap forward with the Green New Deal and Biden will be passing a climate bill this November and it is imperative that the fashion industry`s link to the climate crisis is addressed properly through carbon bills which need to be a part of the price tag. The cheaper production of fuel based raw materials, natural resource pollution, use of hazardous dye stuff, overproduction, waste incineration, landfills all need to be expressed as carbon bills and as a part of the price tags. The global north will need to take the step forward to understanding that the extremely interconnected supply chain system is in an emergency zone where a t-shirt sold in a developed country is linked to the sea-snot where textiles are produced. The pesticides, insecticides as well fertilizers used in agriculture ( as well as growing cotton), dye stuff residues, the chemicals used in the industry become waste as they are washed through the rivers into oceans.
The IMF has recently launched a report on carbon pricing and targets to reduce carbon emissions while avoiding the pressure of cross border carbon taxation. The proposal suggests that the industries, companies need to be subjected to a standardized ( adjusted) carbon pricing - currently the global carbon price per ton of emissions is 3 usd and if we want to stay below the 2C, the carbon pricing needs to go up to 75 usd. One way or another the fashion industry will soon be compelled to work with data and report its findings with regards to its impact-I am also hoping that the standards and the legislations in discussion will move the industry past the greenwashing through the marketing campaigns and present the interconnections of climate and fashion.