In a world where online shopping has become our ultimate guilty pleasure, it's time to confront a hard truth: our love for convenient retail therapy comes at an environmental price, particularly when it comes to excessive shipping in the fashion industry.
From carbon emissions and air pollution to the introduction of invasive species through ballast water discharge, the fashion industry's reliance on shipping leaves a notable footprint on our planet.
Miik clothes are proudly made right here in Canada, all within 50 km of our Toronto office. From fabric milling and dying to cutting and sewing, every step happens locally. This is doing our part to reduce our carbon footprint, and if more brands adopted similar practices, we could make a big difference in cutting down the emissions caused by shipping.
Did you know ships are responsible for more than 18 percent of certain air pollutants and the release of greenhouse gasses?
According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), ships were responsible for emitting 2.2% of the world's human-made carbon dioxide emissions in 2012. If we don't take any action, these emissions could increase by 50 to 250 percent by 2050. Although shipping is more efficient than air freight, the large amount of cargo carried by ships over long distances still leads to significant emissions. While there have been attempts to make shipping more efficient by using techniques like slow-steaming and kites, the increasing number of ships and their tax privileges have contributed to the rise in emissions.
Want to learn more and visualize the global cargo ships? Check out the Ship map!
The environmental toll: Exploring the true costs of shipping
Air pollution: Ships rely on heavy fuel oil, which unfortunately comes with a downside: it's loaded with sulfur. When this fuel is burned, it releases sulfur dioxide (SO2) and tiny particles into the air. These emissions contribute to air pollution, posing risks to human health and the environment. Breathing in polluted air from shipping activities can lead to respiratory problems and worsen conditions like asthma. Additionally, the sulfur dioxide can react with other substances in the atmosphere, causing acid rain that harms ecosystems and damages structures.
Greenhouse gas emissions: Shipping plays a significant role in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2). When ships burn fossil fuels in their engines, they release CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and climate change. According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), shipping is responsible for approximately 3% of global CO2 emissions.
At Miik, sustainability isn't just about using ethical processes or sustainably sourced fabrics. It’s built into the entire lifecycle of every garment we produce. By keeping things close to home, we're doing our part to shrink the carbon footprint of our clothing. No more shipping fabrics, notions, samples, and garments across countries at every stage of production. Plus, by staying local, we're supporting our community and boosting local businesses.
Ballast water discharge: When ships sail, they often need to adjust their weight and stability to ensure smooth sailing. To do this, they take in ballast water, which is basically water taken from the sea and stored in large tanks on board the ship. This helps maintain balance and stability during the voyage.
When ships reach their destination and no longer need the ballast water, they discharge it back into the ocean. However, this water may contain organisms like plants, animals, bacteria, or pathogens from the original location. These non-native species, also known as invasive species, can be well-adapted to their original habitat but cause harm when introduced to new ecosystems.
Once released, these invasive species can rapidly multiply, compete with native species for resources, and disrupt the natural balance of marine ecosystems. This leads to a loss of biodiversity, displacement of local species, and damage to industries like fishing and tourism.
Oil spills: Oil spills resulting from shipping accidents or illegal discharge have severe environmental consequences. These spills not only harm marine life, including birds, fish, and other aquatic organisms but also cause damage to coastlines and disrupt ecosystems. The spilled oil coats the feathers or fur of animals, impairing their mobility and leading to internal damage when ingested. Additionally, oil spills can contaminate fragile ecosystems such as mangroves, coral reefs, and marshes, suffocating plant life and disrupting the food chain. The long-term effects of oil spills can last years, impacting the health of the environment and its inhabitants.
Cleaning up oil spills is challenging and expensive, requiring specialized equipment and techniques. Even with dedicated cleanup efforts, fully restoring the areas affected by spills may not be possible.
Noise pollution: Ships produce substantial underwater noise as a result of their engines, propellers, and other machinery. This noise can have detrimental effects on marine animals, disrupting their communication, feeding habits, and mating patterns. Species like whales, dolphins, and fish rely heavily on sound for navigation, locating prey, and mating calls. The increased noise from ship traffic can mask these important signals, making it difficult for marine animals to carry out their essential activities. This disturbance to their natural behaviours can have serious consequences for the overall health and balance of marine ecosystems.
It can lead to imbalances in predator-prey dynamics, altering population sizes and species distribution. Additionally, disturbances to feeding behaviours can impact the entire food chain, as marine animals may struggle to locate and capture prey, affecting their health and the populations of prey species. This disruption can have far-reaching consequences, potentially disrupting the trophic structure and stability of the ecosystem.
Waste generation: Ships generate different types of waste, such as plastic, sewage, and hazardous materials. When these wastes are not properly disposed of, they pollute the ocean, harming the ecosystems and marine life by being mistaken for food or becoming entangled in it.
Additionally, sewage discharge introduces harmful bacteria and pollutants into the water, degrading water quality and potentially causing disease outbreaks among marine organisms.
The pollution disrupts the food chain, affects key species, and can have long-term ecological implications. Additionally, water contamination poses risks to human health and has negative economic impacts on coastal industries such as fishing and tourism.
From carbon emissions and air pollution to the introduction of invasive species and marine pollution, the impact of shipping on our planet cannot be ignored. As consumers, we have the power to demand transparency and accountability from the fashion industry. By choosing local and sustainable options, we can reduce the carbon footprint associated with shipping, support ethical practices and pave the way for a brighter and greener future for both fashion and our planet.
With much love,
Your Miik team 🤍