What Is Decarbonization & Why Do We Need It?

What Is Decarbonization & Why Do We Need It?

Like turbines in the hills, we’ve all caught wind of the global effort to decarbonize economies throughout the industrialized world. All puns aside, this is an important step forward for us all, and there’s a lot to learn!

Decarbonization is a big word with big implications, and even if you aren’t on the front lines as a research scientist or activist, you can do a lot by simply learning the facts and taking small steps to reduce your carbon output.

People spend their entire lives dedicated to decarbonization and related efforts, but for now, we’re just giving you the basics to get started and set a good example for others to follow. Who knows, you may be the next climate change icon that the world needs right now!

No time to waste – let’s get started.

Decarbonization Defined

You don’t need a university degree or a Nobel Prize in Science to understand why decarbonization is important.

Since the industrial revolution, carbon emissions have risen to astronomical levels, and that rate is only rising further as developing economies begin to gain more traction.

What’s the big deal with carbon, you ask? It’s a naturally-occurring substance, right?

Well, when we refer to decarbonization, we’re really talking about reducing or removing the carbon dioxide emissions in a specific region, country, or industry.

Carbon dioxide is considered the main culprit in the generation of greenhouse gases which are thought to trap heat in our atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

The thinking is pretty logical: if we reduce carbon dioxide output, less greenhouse gas is formed, and we can conceivably slow or reverse the damage done so far to our environment.

Yes, there are numerous other issues we face in regard to the environment and sustainability problems in general. Pollution of the air, rivers, and oceans, damage to rainforests and ice shelves, synthetic materials that don’t biodegrade naturally – all are big talking points that can’t be overlooked, either.

However, one thing at a time, they say. Decarbonization is a worthy goal to pursue, and more people are on board with the program than ever.

Big-Picture Decarbonization Strategies

With millions of climate researchers in agreement, the science is settled – we need to act fast in order to make a positive impact – but how?

Thankfully, many organizations in the public and private sectors are doing a lot of the heavy lifting at an industrial level. The biggest strides have been made in the category of renewable energy, as we’ve seen with wind turbines, solar panels, more efficient batteries, and better power grid management methods.

Many initiatives have urged us to start moving away from “dirty” forms of energy like coal and fossil fuel. These will likely be around for a while, but our reliance on them will fade.

When it comes to actually reducing the current levels of carbon in the air, things get a bit more tricky. Carbon capture and storage tech have been gaining momentum, and engineers are hard at work in search of a reliable way to scale their efforts.

Yes, we’re talking about technology that can literally gather excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, store it in place, and reuse it for more efficient energy – amazing!

Of course, many people are also advocating for large-scale economic restructuring and investment in green technologies to accelerate the process. As most of us have now heard, the clock is ticking on climate change, and time is of the essence.

Don’t be too dismayed, because some countries have shown that major progress is definitely possible. Just look at the United Kingdom, which has decreased its carbon emissions by nearly 40% over the past 30 years.

If we all get with the program and work as a team, anything is possible.

How the Fashion Industry Fits In

Conquering the carbon problem on a global level is more than any one person can handle, so let’s look at it from the perspective of one industry we all know and love: fashion!

According to a report from McKinsey, the fashion industry has its work cut out as the world moves towards decarbonization.

First of all, manufacturers and fiber producers can do a lot to decarbonize material production and processing in their own practices. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of the “accelerated abatement” discovered in the report can be attributed to these upstream operations.

In other words, the facilities that are physically creating the raw materials and assembling garments are responsible for much of this burden. The report said that if new standards are imposed, about 1 billion metric tons of emissions could be reduced in the fashion value chain within the next ten years. That’s something to celebrate!

Of course, we can’t put it all on the shoulders of the manufacturers – they’re only responding to the demands of the brands and retailers that place orders and set the gears in motion.

The McKinsey report showed that by decarbonizing retail operations, reducing overproduction, increasing sustainable transport practices, and improving packaging, brands can cut carbon emissions by 308 million metric tons by 2030.

Small Steps We Can All Take

Enough about the “big bad corporations” for a second, we need to look at the impact of consumer behavior on decarbonization – that’s right, people like you and me who are buying all these clothes in-stores and online!

We must take a more conscious approach to consumption in all areas of life, fashion included.

It all starts with the daily choices that we make and the values that we share with our communities. It might sound like a feel-good campfire song for now, but the implications are serious.

Think of ways to get maximum mileage out of every garment you purchase. For starters, don’t buy it in the first place if you won’t actually wear it! Sounds silly, but that simple rule can make a big difference.

When a piece gets a rip, tear, or shows some wear, don’t just toss it aside, either. Learn to repair your clothes and refurbish old stuff to be as good as new. It’s a cool hobby and not as complicated as it looks.

Finally, get into the aftermarket retail game, which is more popular than ever! Your classic clothes might be worth a lot to someone else, so figure out a way to give your old favorites a new home and maybe make some side cash.

If a garment must be retired, look into recycling it the right way.

Getting New Generations on Board

Decarbonization might seem like an insurmountable challenge, but we’ve given you some real facts to chew on and some numbers to crunch – this is something we can accomplish.

Embody these values yourself, share them with friends, and make sure you pass them along to the next generation of young climate change warriors.

Start them off right by fitting them with quality, sustainably-manufactured clothes that are built to last and be handed down to future young ones. Teach them the importance of recycling at a young age, and bring them to nature to show them its power in person.

There’s so much we can do as people and parents to help the decarbonization effort and simply make the world better, so start today! You’ll be glad you did.


What is decarbonisation? | Drax

What is Decarbonization? | Kiwi Energy

How the fashion industry can reduce its carbon footprint | Mckinsey

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