Make a resolution to take climate action in 2024! Fill out our volunteer interest form or become a sustaining donor today!

The Devil Wears Prada

By Joel Martin, Climate Writer

My New Year’s resolution is to not shop this year. Sure, I’ll buy necessities and replace something if it’s essential, but I’m not going to buy anything that I don’t absolutely need. So far, it’s been easy to live up to and has made my life happier too.

Every bit of stuff that we buy impacts the climate. It takes energy to collect the raw materials, energy to manufacture, energy to make the packing materials, and energy to ship. That adds up to a lot of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere and it’s true for pretty much everything we consume. 

Take fashion, for example. According to Business Insider, fashion production causes 10% of global carbon emissions, more than international flights and as much as the European Union combined. Worse still, fashion manufacturing uses large amounts of water (2,000 gallons for a pair of jeans), releases microplastics into the environment, and employs people in poor working conditions, frequently using forced and child labor

According to McKinsey, the number of garments sold per capita jumped by 60% between 2000 and 2014, demonstrating that purchases are increasingly driven more by want than need. Many companies now build their business model around “fast fashion” where clothes are bought, worn a few times and quickly discarded. Resulting, according to the World Resources Institute, in 182 billion pounds of clothing trash each year.

Electronics are equally problematic. According to a 2021 CNBC report, “vast amounts of energy are required to manufacture the chips that lie beneath the hood of a whole manner of items – from fighter jets and cars to kettles and doorbells.” For example, in 2020, the world’s largest chip manufacturer, Taiwan-based TSMC, emitted 15 millions tons of CO2 equivalents, while Samsung came in a close second with 12.9 million tons. Likewise, extremely potent fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-GHG) are released into the atmosphere every time an LCD screen is manufactured.  According to the EPA, in 2020, the impact of LCD production was estimated to be equivalent to the emissions from 1,000,000 homes. Sadly, the electronics in our new cars, phones, computers, tablets or video game decks cost the planet much more than we ever imagined. 

It’s hard not to get sucked up into this wasteful cycle of uber consumerism since we are constantly blasted with media pushing things on us. Whether it’s product placements in the movies or the relentless stream of internet ‘articles’, someone is constantly foisting things on us that we don’t need. It’s easy to get addicted to that dopamine hit you get when you buy something shiny and new and we have advertisers and the internet to thank for keeping us craving our next hit. Keep in mind that they are targeting you based on the vast array of your personal information that they have collected. It’s so sophisticated that it’s like putting ads about booze in front of an alcoholic every two minutes (and I would bet good money that happens).