Ways to be a more sustainable shopper:
Fast fashion is defined by readily available, inexpensive clothing—but it’s one that comes at a high cost to the environment.
So high in fact, that in 2018 the United Nations deemed it an environmental emergency due to its adverse environmental and health implications. Among the largest of them: water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals, and textile waste.
Fast-fashion is exactly what its name suggests – fast. This type of approach focuses on speed and low costs in order to introduce frequent collections inspired by the catwalk or celebrity styles. Gone are the traditional “four seasons” of clothing—now there are 52 microseasons.
In order to produce large quantities of clothing at an alarming speed, environmental corners are more likely to be cut—something that ultimately impacts every single one of us in one way or another.
The most affected? Those closest to the textile industries.
In a paper published in the journal of Environmental Health, the authors wrote, “While fast fashion offers consumers an opportunity to buy more clothes for less, those who work in or live near textile manufacturing facilities bear a disproportionate burden of environmental hazards.”
In a study conducted by Greenpeace as a part of the Detox campaign, they tested a number of products commonly used in the fast fashion industry. The results showed the presence of hazardous materials proven to be toxic, carcinogenic, and bioaccumulative, meaning an organism absorbs a chemical at a rate faster than it can get rid of it.
Many of the dyes used in fast fashion use toxic chemicals which harms nearby water sources. Textile dying is the second largest polluter of clean water globally, second to agriculture.
The amount of waste as a result of the fast fashion industry is also reaching catastrophic levels.
Americans consume more clothing and textiles than any other nation in the world. In the U.S. alone, 3.8 billion pounds of textiles are sent to landfills annually. That is roughly 80 pounds of clothing per person.
In addition to the detrimental environmental impacts, the textile industry has had a reputation for exploitative practices, especially regarding women and children.
The good news is that there are many organizations demanding more sustainable practices as well as working to improve working conditions of those who make the clothes we wear.
And there are steps that we, too, can take as consumers to make better decisions about how we purchase clothing and how to lessen our impact on the environment. Here are some ways to be a more sustainable shopper:
- Go vintage
Purchasing secondhand is a way to practice sustainability in the fashion industry. When you buy an item already in circulation, it helps prevent this garment from ending up in landfill which is the last place we want fashion to be.
- Learn to mend clothing
Increasing disposable income in recent generations means there is less of a “mend and make do” mentality. Additionally, traditional sewing skills may be less likely to be passed through generations. But learning to repair versus replace helps to keeps garment in our closets that could otherwise end up in landfills.
- Purchase from sustainable and eco-conscious brands
When you do need to purchase new clothing, make a point to shop from sustainable brands offering safe working conditions. Do a little investigative work into how brands source and make their garments. To help you get started, take a look here, or hop on the Makeena app where we share a variety of eco-friendly brands.
- Adopt the “30 Wears Rule”
When purchasing an item, ask yourself if you will wear the particular item at least 30 times or if it is just a one-and-done item. If it’s the latter, consider an alternative piece that better fits in your wardrobe in more ways than one.
- Take better care of current clothing
While some items arguably need to be washed after one wear, other items, like sweaters and denim, can be worn multiple times before needing to be washed. When washing, opt for “clean” detergents or learn how to make your own natural cleaners. When drying items, consider air drying as opposed to the dryer to reduce energy use as well as to help garment keep their shape longer.
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When we choose not to support fast fashion brands, we not only send a message for slower style and consumption, but it sends a message that we support the health of the planet as well as the people on it.