skip to content
My Green Pod Logo

Singles’ Day: an environmental ‘catastrophe’

China's ‘Singles’ Day’ clothing sales produced 258,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2016
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
China's Singles' Day is an environmental catastrophe

Clothes sales from China’s 2016 ‘Singles’ Day’ internet shopping bonanza produced 258,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions – equivalent to the CO2 absorbed by 2.58 million trees, new research from Greenpeace East Asia shows.

Singles’ Day

Singles’ Day, a popular festival that celebrates singledom, takes place on 11 November, a date chosen because the number 1 resembles a lone individual.

It was reportedly started by a group of Nanjing University students in 1993, and was co-opted by online shopping giant Alibaba in 2009. In 2016, Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sales climbed to $17.8 billion, and it’s now the biggest shopping day in the world.

Emissions from online shopping

In China, the use of mobile phones and computers to place online orders produced 3.22 million tonnes of CO2 in 2015 – an average of 8,800 tonnes of carbon per day. Clothing makes up the biggest portion of China’s online retail sales, at 28.5%.

Carbon emissions from online shopping are higher than from bricks-and-mortar retail. Greenpeace found that delivery of 2016 Singles’ Day orders produced 52,400 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to the CO2 absorbed by 524,000 trees.

‘Singles’ Day is a catastrophe for the environment. Not only does it create huge amounts of waste, but the CO2 emissions from manufacturing, packaging and shipping are enormous. One-click, disposable fashion is not a sustainable model for the future of retail.’

Greenpeace East Asia toxics campaigner

China’s textiles industry

The recycling rate of packaging materials remains low in China. Nationwide, less than 10% of paper, cardboard and plastic packaging used in delivery is recycled.

China’s textiles and clothing industry is ranked third out of 41 industries in terms of wastewater discharge volume. 20% of China’s rivers and lakes have been contaminated as a result of dying, printing and treatment from the textiles industry.

Buy less, wear longer

Greenpeace is urging manufacturers to create more durable products and invest in closed-loop production.

At the same time, consumers worldwide have the choice to purchase clothes that last longer, to buy second hand items and to repair clothing instead of throwing it away.

‘As consumers, the simplest thing we can do is to buy less and wear our clothes for longer. It takes 2,700 litres of water to make one T-shirt, so buying a used shirt instead of a new one can save as much water as the average adult drinks in three years. There is growing discussion in China about sustainability, but this needs to be reflected in how we buy and make things.’

Greenpeace East Asia toxics campaigner

Click here to find out how cork could slow down fast fashion.

Here's more related content

Sorry we don't have any suggested related content at the moment. Please check back later.

Join The Conversation

Leave a Reply

Here's More Ethical Arts & Fashion News & Features

  • All
  • COP28
  • London
  • P.E.A. Awards
  • TV
  • activism
  • activists
  • art
  • arts
  • awards
  • beauty
  • books
  • business
  • celebrity
  • charity
  • climate
  • climate action
  • climate change
  • climate emergency
  • climate solutions
  • clothes
  • conflict
  • consciousness
  • consumer
  • drink
  • education
  • environment
  • ethical business
  • ethical fashion
  • events
  • extreme weather
  • fabrics
  • family
  • farmers
  • farming
  • fashion
  • fast fashion
  • film
  • food
  • fossil fuels
  • gardening
  • growing
  • health
  • human rights
  • kids
  • leadership
  • lifestyle
  • media
  • microplastics
  • net zero
  • organic
  • photography
  • plastic pollution
  • plastics
  • podcast
  • policy
  • politics
  • pollution
  • preloved
  • schools
  • secondhand
  • shopping
  • spirituality
  • supply chain
  • sustainability
  • tech
  • textiles
  • wellbeing
  • women
  • zero carbon