onsumers in the UK are to learn for the first time about the carbon footprint of their clothing. Ethical and eco casual clothing manufacturer, Continental Clothing, in partnership with the Carbon Trust, is introducing the world’s first Carbon Reduction Label for textile products.
The new label, which launches this week 23rd March, will show the carbon footprint of the entire lifecycle of the clothes, from raw materials and manufacturing, through to consumer use and disposal. The Carbon Trust’s pilot programme is part of Defra’s action plan for sustainable clothing, which was initiated in February at London Fashion Week by Lord Hunt.
The Minister for Sustainable Development and Energy Innovation, and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, said: “Continental Clothing's Carbon Reduction Label is an innovative idea as part of the Defra-coordinated Sustainable Clothing Action Plan. The label is a great way to give consumers clear information about the environmental impact of their clothes throughout their lifecycle - from manufacturing right through to washing and disposal - so they can be confident in the sustainability of their clothing choices.”
The label will be displayed on a range of printed T-shirts and sweatshirts, and will inform the consumer of the total lifecycle footprint as well as their own contribution through washing, tumble-drying and ironing. It will put a number on the reductions that can be achieved by consumers through changing their washing, drying and ironing routines.
The footprinting study has shown that as much as ½ of the total footprint of clothing can come from consumers’ home laundry activities, a particular hotspot being tumble-drying, which produces twice the emissions of automatic washing. Avoiding tumble-drying and ironing could reduce the total footprint by as much as one third overall.
Continental Clothing has also played its part in driving the positive change by reducing the CO2 emissions from the manufacturing stages by 90% through the use of a renewable energy and low-footprint production approach.
The Climate Change Bill, which became law in the UK on November 26th 2008 states that "It is the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline".
Continental Clothing director Philip Gamett said however: "Continental Clothing has demonstrated irrefutably that it’s possible to achieve up to a 90% carbon reduction in the manufacture of clothing, and that it is possible to do it today, without waiting until 2050.”
An in-depth analysis of the product footprint reveals the various impacts through all the stages of the supply chain, pointing to the critical elements in the clothing production.
Mariusz Stochaj, product manager at Continental Clothing, said: “This is big news. We have, for the first time, accurate measurements of the greenhouse gas emissions of every component part that makes up the finished garment. Knowing the facts and understanding the environmental impacts of all the components of the product opens the door to delivering sustainable clothing by incorporating environmental considerations from the early design stages.”
The Carbon Reduction Labelled range of T-shirts and sweatshirts is available in the UK through Adili.com. It’s expected that prominent clothing brands and retailers will want to demonstrate environmental and social responsibility and join the labelling
scheme, which for the time being remains voluntary. However, it is easy to envisage footprinting of consumer products becoming widespread, if not compulsory, as the UK heads towards its goal of delivering 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
This carbon labelling initiative follows the launch of the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan at London Fashion Week by Defra Minister Lord Hunt. It brought together over 300 organisations, from high street retailers to designers and textile manufacturers, in a bid to make fashion more sustainable and less environmentally damaging.
Continental Clothing and the UK’s first licensed organic textile printer T Shirt and Sons were amongst them as well as some of the biggest names in fashion including Marks & Spencer and Nike. They all signed up to take actions to make a significant difference to the environmental footprint and social inequalities which blight some of the production and retail processes of consumer fashion.
While having many economic benefits, clothing has a significant environmental and ethical impact ranging from increased carbon emissions, waste, water usage and pollution to child labour and unfair trading conditions. The clothing and textiles sector in the UK alone produces around 3.1 million tonnes of CO2, two million tonnes of waste, and 70 million tonnes of waste water per year - with 1.5 million tonnes of unwanted clothing ultimately ending up in landfill.
Lord Philip Hunt, Minister for Sustainability said: “Retailers have a big role to play in ensuring fashion is sustainable. We should all be able to walk into a shop and feel that the clothes we buy have been produced without damaging the environment or using poor labour practices, and that we will be able to reuse and recycle them when we no longer want them.”
Action takers for the roadmap will be concentrating on improving environmental performance across the supply chain including: sustainable design; fibres and fabrics; maximising reuse, recycling and end of life management; and clothes cleaning. They will also raise awareness of and promote markets for sustainable clothing, whilst improving traceability along the supply chain (environmental, ethical, and trade).
Prior to its carbon labelling, Continental Clothing launched clothing line EarthPositive in January 2008 to address a broad spectrum of sustainability issues, including organic cotton farming, ethical manufacturing and low carbon footprint.
T Shirt and Sons already use organic cotton to manufacture their T Shirts, and are now developing the first Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified system for eco printing on Organic cotton. T Shirt and Sons director Andy Lunt said: “As the UK's leading environmental T-shirt printer we are pioneering new systems to ensure credibility of certified organic textiles throughout the decoration process. We have a clear vision to ensure that the provenance and integrity of certified T-shirts are retained throughout the whole production cycle.”
The roadmap with all actions and the action areas can be viewed at: www.defra.gov.uk