Canopy and Forest-Free Fashion

For the 2019 series of earthrise we made a film about forest-free fashion. I’d always known that the fashion industry had a huge environmental footprint. After all, it’s worth $1.7 trillion, and much of those gains are because, every year, textile manufacturers make billions of garments which might only be worn once or twice before ending up in landfill.

But until I made this film I wasn’t fully aware just how huge the impact was. Every year 150 million trees are cut down to make the pulp which is the basis of viscose and rayon. Many of these are primary forest trees, thousands of years old and irreplaceable, which end up in all kinds of clothes from T-shirts to jeans.

The film focuses on the work of a hugely impressive NGO called Canopy. Set up by Nicole Rycroft around 20 years ago, its mission is to protect ancient and endangered forests through working along supply chains with companies to help them source products sustainably and with consumers to encourage them to use the power of their purse to effect change.

So many of our daily products come from trees. One study estimated that global toilet paper production wipes out about 27,000 trees per day – that’s almost 9 million trees per year. And 3 billion trees are felled for packaging each year.

In Sweden, for example, Canopy is working with recycling company Re:Newcell. It’s invented a pioneering technology that promises to transform textile manufacturing. Recycled clothes are processed and pulped until they end up as cellulose sheets from which viscose can be made. And, on the high street, Canopy has partnered with over 170 fashion brands and is connecting them to sustainable suppliers.

I actively dislike shopping – I tend to re-patch and re-mend my clothes until I am forced to accept that they are beyond repair. But, when that happens and I need to buy something new, it’s reassuring to notice that there are more sustainable fabrics on the shop floor. Check out Canopy’s list of partners here before you hit the stores.