Forests & Fashion: “There will be a little revolution – be ready!”
29 November 2018 Forests for Fashion
“The fashion sector has the opportunity to become more sustainable, and forests have the potential to help it do so,” said Paola Deda, Chief of the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section in Geneva, as she opened the 23rd PEFC General Assembly.
The impact of sustainably produced forest fibres on the fashion industry could be considerable, which is why we are working with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) through our Forests for Fashion initiative, linking forest-based materials from sustainably managed forests with the world of fashion.
Why does the fashion sector need to change?
With a share of over 88%, cotton and synthetic fibres are by far the most commonly used materials in the fashion industry. Yet synthetic fabrics shed half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres per year that end up in our oceans, while cotton is a very thirsty crop.
“The production of one pair of jeans uses 10,000 litres of water – the same amount as one person drinks in 10 years,” Paola explained.
With cotton so water intensive, the fashion industry is responsible for 20% of global wastewater. Furthermore, while cotton covers only 3% of the arable land, it uses 24% of insecticides and 11% of pesticides on this planet, which makes it not only a thirsty, but also a dirty crop.
“With 60% more items of clothes sold today compared to the year 2000, it is high time to find sustainable alternatives,” Paola pointed out.
What’s the alternative?
A sustainable alternative to cotton and synthetic fibres is growing in our forests. Wood-based fibres need 60 times less water than cotton and produce 13 times less carbon emissions than polyester. However, we need to make sure that these forest-based materials originate from sustainably managed forests and are produced in an ethical manner.
Forests for Fashion initiative
Paola highlighted the strong cooperation between PEFC and the United Nations. We teamed up with the UNECE/FAO and launched our Forests for Fashion initiative back in 2014.
Together with the United Nations Television in Geneva, UNECE/FAO and PEFC also produced “Made in Forests”, a video in which UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Michelle Yeoh sets out to discover what sustainable fashion could look like, without compromising the beauty of our clothes.
While we cannot solve all the challenges facing a sustainable fashion industry, we can become part of the solution. This is why we are working together to promote the potential of forest-fibres to contribute to the fashion industry’s objective to become sustainable.
Paola highlighted that 2018 was “an intense year of cooperation”. We joint forces for the Regional Forum for Sustainable Development in Geneva, and presented a range of clothes and accessories made of fibres from PEFC-certified forests the High Level Political Forum in New York.
“People could touch clothes and see that there is nothing ‘woody’ about them,” explained Paola. In fact, forest materials are even softer and more breathable than cotton or silk.
Paola sees a bright future for sustainable forest fibres. “Today, wood-based fibres make up only 6% of the market, but they have the potential to transform fashion into a more sustainable industry”, she announced.