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The city contributing the most CO2 to fast fashion

With fast fashion largely being driven by the rise in online shopping, energy switching site SaveOnEnergy were keen to investigate the extent to which the UK’s searches for online fashion retail brands could be harming the environment.

In a bid to determine which major UK city is potentially producing the most CO2 as a result of the number of fast fashion searches on Google, we analysed both the search volumes for certain fashion retail brands, and the estimated number of emissions created for each visit to these retailers’ sites, to estimate how much CO2 each city could be responsible for each month on average.

The results were based on the assumption that every Google search for a fashion retailer would result in a visit to their website.

Which UK cities emit the most CO2 through online fast fashion store visits?

1. London

Of all of the UK cities studied, London potentially emits the highest total of CO2 overall, based on the number of site searches for online retailers and their emissions per site visit. In fact, the capital was estimated to emit over 9 million grams of CO2 on average each month. This is approximately equivalent to 9,005kg of CO2 or flying from London Heathrow to Perth and back – twice!

Within London, the most searched for online fashion retailer is ASOS, with 673,000 Google searches per month on average, followed by Next (450,000 searches), and Zara (368,000 searches).

2. Birmingham

Birmingham potentially emits the second highest amount of CO2, based on their site searches and the emission rate per site visit of these sites. The city’s potential collective emission rate each month is approximately 100kg more than a Tesla Model X, which weighs in at 1,611kg.

Of Birmingham’s most visited or searched fashion sites, the most popular online fashion retailer in the city was Next, which received 110,000 Google searches on average each month. ASOS followed behind with searches reaching an average of 90,500 per month, and New Look with 74,000.

3. Liverpool

Liverpool was found to produce the third highest amount of CO2 from fast fashion searches, with our study finding that around 1,150kg of CO2 is produced on average each month, assuming that every search for a retailer in the city resulted in a site visit.

In fact, after analysing search behaviour we found that Liverpool’s most searched for online fashion retailers per month, on average, are Next (74,000), River Island (60,500), and ASOS (49,500).
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Which fashion websites produce the most and least CO2 emissions per site visit?

The fashion websites producing the most CO2 per visit:

Boohoo is the fashion retailer whose site was estimated to produce the highest amount of CO2 per visit, having been revealed to produce approximately 7.21g of CO2 per visit. Meanwhile, Nasty Gal had the second highest CO2 production figure per site visit, at approximately 5.18g for each visit.
Forever 21 appeared to produce the third highest quantity of CO2 per site visit, which was revealed to produce approximately 4.8g of CO2 per visit.

The fashion websites producing the least CO2 per visit:

Of all the online fashion retailer sites studied, we found that Wish produced the lowest amount of CO2 per site visit. The online fashion site is estimated to generate just 0.5g of CO2 per visit.
Jack Wills followed shortly behind, with our research finding the online retailer emits approximately 0.93g of CO2 per site visit. Coming in third and emitting an estimated 1.11g of CO2 per visit, is Matalan.

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Which online fashion retailers are Googled the most in the UK?

Given that the number of searches for specific online fashion retailers helped to determine how much CO2 was estimated to be produced per brand, we identified the most searched for online fashion retailers, based on the average number of times they are Googled each month.

With a staggering 5.1 million Google searches per month, on average, Next ranked as the most searched for online fashion retailer in the UK – that’s twice as many searches as ASOS in second place - and topped the list for the most searched fashion retailer in Belfast and Bristol.

Popular online retailer ASOS has an impressive 2.5 million monthly searches, making it the second most searched for fashion retailer of those studied. A hefty 673,000 of those monthly searches came from London alone, making ASOS London’s most searched for online fashion brand.

With just 500,000 fewer searches on average each month, Matalan followed behind with 2 million searches on average per month in the UK, making it the third most searched for online fashion retailer studied. Of these searches, Matalan received 135,000 from London, 49,500 from Birmingham, 33,100 from Glasgow, and 22,200 from Sheffield.

The popular online retailer Boohoo comes in fourth after racking up a total of 1.5 million searches on average each month. Of these monthly searches, 246,000 came from London, 60,500 from Birmingham, 33,100 from Liverpool, and 21,700 from Leeds. Meanwhile, New Look ranked in fifth place, with 1.4 million searches made on average each month - 100,000 fewer than online fashion giant Boohoo.

Which fashion websites produce the highest CO2 emissions each month?

To find out which online fashion retailer is potentially the biggest contributor to CO2 emissions, we analysed the total number of searches per brand, alongside the grams of CO2 produced for each visit to their site.

From this, we can estimate the fashion retailers most likely to produce the highest CO2 emissions each month, assuming that every search resulted in a visit to their website.


* Please note: Throughout this study, it is assumed that each Google search for each respective shop equates to a visit to their website. 

  1. SaveOnEnergy looked at the top 20 most populated cities in the United Kingdom.

  2. Population statistics were sourced from worldpopulationreview.com/ 

  3. Search volumes for online fast fashion retailers were extracted for the specific regions above using Google Adwords.

  4. These search volumes were then multiplied by the amount of CO2 generated by a single visit to each website, supplied by websitecarbon.com.

  5. UK search volumes (not regional) were procured from ahrefs.com.

  6. Online fast fashion retailers were selected via a combination of popularity and sustainability ratings (provided by https://directory.goodonyou.eco/.)

  7. Equivalent weight data was extracted from a variety of sources, including http://www.weightandthings.com/, globe.gov, nps.gov, weightofstuff.com, and the Guinness World Records archive.

  8. Although Primark is a huge contributor to fast fashion, since they do not have an e-commerce website, they were not included in the study.

  9. All data was collected on 22/01/2021 and is correct as of this date.