It’s 2020, and that means that there’s no excuse to be dismissive towards the global climate crisis or the mistreatment of the animals in both the food and fashion industry. In recent years, vegetarianism and veganism have been adopted by more and more people, and for good reason.
The impact that over-farming animals has on both the welfare of their lives and the global climate as a whole has been ignored for decades, but people are becoming more educated and aware of the crisis that affects all of us. The call for boycotting certain brands and animal food products has been kicking up speed, and now, there’s even a month dedicated to hopping on board the ethical train: Veganuary.
What is Veganuary?
Veganuary is the practice of veganism throughout the month of January that anyone can take part in, even if they don’t adhere to the lifestyle all year round. The movement centres on going vegan in terms of diet, but going vegan isn’t just a way to eat. The clothing you wear also has a general impact on animals and the environment, depending on how it’s made or what it’s made with. Although the movement is relatively new (its beginnings date back to 2014 in the United Kingdom), close to a million people have participated this year alone, with big names such as Joaquin Phoenix and Natalie Portman making the pledge.
The idea of Veganuary centres around not eating meat, but not just for the welfare of animals. The agriculture industry contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at a rate of 10% in Europe – down from 24% since 1990, but still fairly high overall. In other countries, though, the emissions from farming crop and animals have grown by 14% due to food demand.
If the populations causing this high demand of livestock were to switch to veganism, those numbers would shrink dramatically over time; after all, there would be no need for a supply without the demand. In terms of agriculture, rising temperatures across the globe have caused growing seasons to start earlier and last longer, thus causing production to increase. These increases will lead to higher production of greenhouse gases over time.
If more people were to adopt the vegan lifestyle, production of meat would no longer be as important a climate issue – especially in Western cultures, where the overconsumption of meat is one of the biggest contributing factors to climate change. In smaller developing countries, food production is nowhere near as damaging to the climate because they don’t have the same lengthy, land-consuming factory processes.
The amount of food waste has also contributed to greenhouse gas emissions globally at a rate of 8–10%. To put it mildly, we’re demanding too much and then wasting a lot of what we get.
Although the food and agriculture industries are high on the list of greenhouse gas emitters, the fashion industry is a bigger culprit. According to fashion industry magnate Eileen Fisher, it’s the ‘second-largest polluter in the world’. (The first is big oil, which really puts things into perspective.) Because of all the factors that go into creating the latest trends, such as production, material, manufacturing, construction, shipping and retail, the carbon footprint to create your next favourite T-shirt is higher than anyone would like to admit. For example, to make one outfit out of cotton and denim, it could take up to 5,000 gallons of water usage.
Not only is production of clothing high on the scale of global emissions, the dye used to create the colours in your closet are also creating a huge problem. In Indonesia, textile factories line the shores of the Citarum River, which is becoming poisoned by the fabric dye, causing upwards of five million people in the area to suffer negative health effects.
A lot of companies have adopted a fake-fur approach for their cold weather gear, but many parts of the fashion industry are still stuck in the stone age of killing animals in the name of fashion. The beauty industry has also been under fire for its use of animals in testing new products – causing many new companies to break into the make-up game with the drawcard that they don’t do this.
Knowing what you know now, it’s hard to imagine being a part of the morally bankrupt fashion industry, isn’t it?
How to make sure your 2020 wardrobe is ethically sound
As one person, there’s not much you can do in terms of the overall effect the fashion industry has on the planet and the animals that call it home. But there are things you can do to ensure that you reduce your own carbon footprint. There are plenty of companies that offer complete transparency in their production process, and most of the companies that use climate change and the ethical treatment of animals in their marketing are either Bluesign certified, Fairtrade-approved or RSPCA-approved, so the consumer can be sure they’re buying from an ethically sound source. Some companies will also take part in CSR programs that help support their employees and the community they share.
Your options for a closet full of ethical fashion aren’t at all limited, either. Vintage wares can ensure that clothes aren’t ending up in landfills well before it’s their time to die; selling your clothes or donating them instead of tossing them out can also extend their life. Another option is to buy from a place that offers buy-for-life garments, which are designed to last you well into your golden years. These garments are made with the highest quality materials so that they can last season after season, year after year, and you won’t have to replace them – thus cutting down on fashion waste.
Avoiding buying clothing from places well-known to have sweatshops and unethical environmental practices will also help you reduce your carbon footprint at the same time as making ethical choices. If more people did the same, the environmental impact of Veganuary could potentially lead to an environmentally conscious population year-round.