Picture this: you start online shopping, find a bunch of clothing items that you want, press ‘add to cart’, enter your banking information, and press ‘confirm’. In just 3-5 business days, your package magically arrives at your front door.

How did it end up there? Well, it’s not magic (sadly!). Welcome to the next stage in creating the #GreenestTee! This week, we’re all about understanding just how far your clothes are travelling to get to your front door.

How do your clothes travel?

There are four main modes of transportation used in the textile industry: through air travel, by ship, on the road, or by rail.

Air:

Air travel is one of the most efficient methods for transporting goods over long distances and across oceans. However, this is one of the most expensive methods and the most energy intensive. 500 grams of CO2 emitted for every km travelled per ton.

Sea:

Transporting goods by ship is one of the slowest methods of transporting goods, with some trips taking a few weeks to months depending on the distance travelled. Plus, only certain cities have available ports to receive international goods. However, transport by sea is incredibly environmentally friendly and is the greenest option out of the four. 10 – 40 grams of CO2 emitted for every km travelled per ton.

Road:

This is one of the most popular, cheaper methods for shipping goods locally, for shorter distances, and within smaller continents. However, it is hard to depict exactly when the goods will arrive at its destination with road travel, due to unpredictable factors such as traffic and hardware difficulties. 60 – 150 grams of CO2 are emitted for every km travelled per ton.

Rail:

For local transportation, using railway networks is a greener and efficient method for getting goods from Point A to Point B. However, using railroads is entirely dependent on the available infrastructure in place for the certain location and the legislation that exists. 30 – 100 grams of CO2 for every km travelled per ton.

From these stats, we can see that air travel is the most impactful on the environment in terms of emissions while transporting via sea has the least amount of emissions.

Let’s zoom into the supply chain:

As a result of globalization, many brands outsource stages in their supply chain into different manufacturing facilities across the world. Now, certain countries dominate the majority of the global textile processing altogether.

Source: Quantis. “Measuring Fashion. Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries Study. Full report and methodological considerations.” 2018

What if a brand wanted to source their fabric production in China and their dyeing and finishing in Bangladesh? Here’s where the transportation numbers come in.

It is estimated that around 92% of the transportation between stages of the supply chain is done via ship and the other 8% is done by air.

Sea travel is commonly used prior to the assembly stage because there is no time pressure in terms of finishing the production. Once the demand comes in from the consumers and purchases are made, transportation needs to speed up and thus, air travel is used. But, the travelling and added transport between each stage in the supply chain adds up regardless.

Our blog continues below, but are you interested in keeping up with the #GreenestTee campaign? We’ll have giveaways, for brands and consumers, and a ton of new knowledge. Check out our free e-book on green fabrics here and follow us on our InstagramTwitterFacebook, or subscribe to our newsletter!

What are some ways to reduce our transportation emissions?

  • Keep it simple. Aim to keep your textile processes as geographically close together as possible. This will 1) reduce the need for transportation between stages and 2) empower the local economy with increased jobs and revenue.
  • Vertical integration is key. Combining the processes of spinning, fabric making, and dyeing into one central facility can further help to reduce extra transportation costs and ensure proper regulation.
  • Online is better. Most people would assume online shopping to be the biggest culprit in the transportation costs of the textile industry. However, this is not always the case. Going to the mall to shop also has an environmental impact. This includes the emissions released driving your car to get there and the energy it takes to run the store. While neither option is perfect from an environmental perspective, online shopping might actually have an upper hand in terms of emissions. So, go ahead and online shop your heart out 😉
  • Ship > Air. As mentioned above, the emissions from using air travel to transport goods are almost 50x higher than those released from other modes of transportation. For controllable aspects (i.e. transporting from manufacturer to consumer), try transporting products via ship instead to dramatically reduce your environmental impact.

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