Heating Up: How Digital Textiles Can Help Combat Soaring Temperatures

Incendiary summer temperatures have set global records in 2022. In the United States alone, 1,200 locations across two dozen states experienced unprecedented heat levels. Wildfires wreaked havoc, with over 7.33 million acres of land burned as of August 30. 

In ordinarily temperate parts of the world, green fields and parks have been reduced to rusty hay after weeks of no rain. The United Kingdom, renowned for its summer showers, has seen record-smashing temperatures of over 40 C and wildfires in London. 

The situation is even more pressing in the developing world. Statistics from the United Nations Environment Programme (ENEP) show that more than two-thirds of the world’s scorched land was in Africa from 2002 to 2016. 

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Even events that appear unrelated to rising temperatures are indirectly impacted by the heatwaves. The catastrophic floods in Pakistan that began in June are one example. Climate scientists have demonstrated a clear connection between heatwaves and inundations: Global warming causes rising air and sea temperatures, which leads to increased evaporation. As warmer air holds more moisture, monsoon rainfalls become ever more intense.

Current Environmental Impact

There is no longer any reasonable doubt that human activity is a key driver of rising temperatures. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, manufacturing accounted for 24% of American greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. Likewise, the latest figures for the European Union show that industry contributed 20% of emissions during Q1 2022 – that tops the total produced by international flights and maritime shipping combined. 

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Textiles are no exception here. In fact, data from the ENEP and the European Parliamentary Research Service suggests that 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from clothing and footwear production. What’s more, the amount of industrial waste is phenomenal. Exacerbated by the cycle of skyrocketing demand for fast fashion and ever-accelerating turnarounds at cut-price costs, annual textile waste is over 92 million tons, according to recent data.  

A study by the Ellen McArthur Foundation, a UK-based nonprofit that advocates for a transition to a circular economy, suggests that only 15% of textiles are recycled – the rest ending up in incinerators and landfills. 

The Fashion and Textile Industries Are the Prime Culprits

Yet, contrary to what might be expected, individual shoppers are not responsible for the lion’s share of this waste. Far from it: While concrete data is lacking, experts estimate that commercial fashion industry production creates 40 times as much waste as consumers do. Of that total, pre-production waste is thought to make up 15 to 20%. 

Extra yardage, including unwanted but often perfectly reusable trimmings, are a factor. However, another important element in the equation is the mass discarding of samples, whether prototype, pre-production, or production/top-of-the-order samples. 

Of course, samples are an essential component of the manufacturing process. So, how to guarantee access to the necessary range and volume of samples in the pre-production process without contributing to mounting textile waste? 

Digital Textiles Are the Key to Sustainability

The answer lies in the digitization of production and, in particular, the harnessing of cutting-edge 3D technology to automate the sampling process. By integrating online prototyping and swatch-sharing into the (pre)production process, brands can drastically reduce textile waste while at the same time reducing ownership costs and implementing scaling.  

As the world’s largest 3D fabric material network, Frontier.cool partners with a range of fashion brands worldwide to offer innovative AI and machine learning-driven solutions to the problem of textile waste.

With Frontier’s database of more than 100,000 digital textiles, designers can scan and upload physical swatches, then engage in real-time collaboration on digital prototyping. This eliminates the need to create high numbers of physical swatches for review and redesign.    

Users are able to scan and upload materials at lightning speed, then deliver high-fidelity U3M downloadable 3D and 4D-ready files. There’s no need for overpriced software and hardware, third-party outsourcing, or laborious training processes. 

Most importantly, the solutions that Frontier.cool offers address the pressing issue of textile waste in a bid to alleviate the deep carbon footprint that the clothing industry continues to leave on our environment.

As demand for such eco-friendly solutions heats up, it is to be hoped that a commensurate cooling down of the planet can be set in motion.   

To discover the real impact of your fabrics, get in touch with the Frontier team for more information.