Fashion costs the Earth: #XR52 Boycott New Clothing


30 April 2020
20:00 - 23:00 (UTC +01:00)



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Extinction Rebellion

We’ve come to the end of Fashion Revolution week, but from the majority of the fashion industry, we’ve seen anything but a revolution.
Fashion, clothing and textiles production is one of the most polluting industries in the world, with a carbon footprint matching the whole of Russia, causing untold suffering of mistreated workers, damaging the mental health of millions through unrealistic idols of “beauty”, and resulting in massive amounts of waste and chemical pollution. Although many try to whitewash their actions under the guise of creating art and culture, we will not be charmed – this is exploitation of people and planet at the expense of the natural world and future generations. Such injustice has no place in our society. Where our governments have failed to regulate or sanction this toxic industry, the Rebellion must do it in their place.

If you can only remember 3 facts:
1. Total greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production, at 1.2 billion tonnes annually, are more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined (3)
2. Clothing production has more than doubled globally over the last 15 years, and in the UK we’re buying twice as much as we were buying 15 years ago(1)
3. Textiles are the largest source of both primary and secondary microplastics, accounting for 34.8% of global microplastic pollution(1)

Environmental impacts
· Every year, around half a million tonnes of microfibers released by washed garments contribute to ocean pollution – 16 times more than plastic microbeads from cosmetics(3)
· Loss of biodiversity due to intensive cultivation of cotton crops (22% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of all pesticides are applied to cotton crops) (1)
· 20% of freshwater pollution comes from textile treatment and dyeing(2)
· Textile production is also responsible for the loss of habitat (30% of rayon and Viscose come from pulp sourced from endangered forests) (1)
The textiles system operates in an almost completely linear way
· It takes between 10,000 and 20,000 litres of water to grow and produce 1kg of cotton (1 shirt and 1 pair of jean) (2)
· Worldwide, clothing utilisation – the average number of times a garment is worn before it ceases to be used – has decreased by 36% compared to 15 years ago(3)
· In the UK 30% in average wardrobe has not been worn in a year (2)
· Worldwide, fewer than one per cent of garments are recycled into new clothing each year, and only 20% of textiles are recycled at all (4)
· In the UK £140m worth of clothing goes to landfill each year(2)

(2) (report: valuing our clothes the cost of UK fashion)

Extinction Rebellion has challenged individuals, companies and collectives in the fashion industry to change their practices and commit to a more sustainable future, most notably swarming and disrupting London Fashion Week 2019. Yet precious little has changed: our future is still on fire, and the industry is still churning out more and more unnecessary products and raking in the profits from it. We must keep up the pressure and the disruption to push for change. It’s high time to face up to this industry that is trashing our planet for the sake of money. And if money is their motive, then it’s time to take that away.

JOIN US in a one-year boycott of new clothing to economically disrupt the fashion and textiles industry. As part of the #XR52 weeks of direct action initiative, we call upon all Rebels, businesses, governments, and supporters who are willing and able, to buy no new clothing for at least one year, until 30th April 2020. If we have not seen meaningful change in the industry, the boycott will renew for a second year.

This is not just about reducing your personal carbon footprint or living more sustainably – it‘s about Rebels causing mass disruption together, disobeying the norms and refusing to cooperate with a toxic industry that has us all headed for extinction. Although we have compassion and understanding for those who cannot engage with the boycott for certain reasons, we urge you to push for the most radical change possible in your relationship with clothing and fashion, and continue going further with each month as the boycott continues. For those working within the fashion and textiles industry who can cause internal disruption to demand change, we suggest unauthorised die-in breaks, calling in sick, strikes, or quitting altogether to join the Rebellion.

As a first step, we call for Rebels to stop buying new clothes, and to encourage friends and family to do the same: every dollar is a vote which fuels the fashion industry and the continuation of business-as-usual. For those forced to purchase some essential items such as underwear, we urge them to favour the most ethical and ecologically-sound choices, such as sustainably-sourced biodegradable materials. We suggest Rebels buy or rent only second-hand clothing, choose items locally made from recycled fabrics, waste, or non-virgin materials, or acquire clothing by other disobedient means.

Better yet, we encourage XRebel local groups to set up clothes-swaps and communal wardrobes in their communities, accepting donations and shared ownership of clothing between Rebels and those in need. We encourage Rebels to “tear, repair, wear, share”, setting up or collaborating with communal remakeries and workshops where possible, minimising waste and maximising durability of clothing and fabrics through repair, re-use, alteration, upcycling, recycling and more.

We applaud and salute those wishing to go even further in re-imagining a radical new relationship with clothing, how it is made, owned and used – creative new ideas are welcomed. Whichever level of commitment you reach, we encourage you to push your commitment to radical change further and further each month.

Together we can model the change that is needed in this toxic industry, support those who have suffered or been excluded by it, and prevent further damage to the natural world. We look forward to seeing your progress all around the globe.

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