When have you worn the same outfit multiple times? Wondering where your clothes are made? Do you keep a piece of clothing until it is completely worn out or do you change your wardrobe every season?
These questions may seem overwhelming, but they are becoming more common as global citizens around the world are interested in how to shop more sustainably.
The fashion industry produces and sells more clothing than ever. With brands like ASOS, Fashion Nova and Zara launching new products online and in stores every week, chances are you own fast fashion clothing.
“Fast fashion” is a catchy term that describes ultra-fast and inexpensive methods used by the fashion industry, which have disastrous consequences for the environment. Trend pieces are created, made, transported and sold in stores until a new trend emerges and the cycle repeats. A study by Labfresh shows that 57.1% of textile waste from 15 European Union countries ends up in landfills.
When fast fashion is ubiquitous in our daily lives, both on social networks and in our wardrobes, it is difficult to know exactly how much damage the fashion industry is doing to the environment, making it difficult for the industry to . According to American media Vox, we have few scientific statistics on the link between the fashion industry and climate change, but we clearly see that there are problems.
Indeed, polyester, the material most commonly used to make clothing, is made of plastic and is therefore never fully biodegradable. Like other forms of plastic that are rarely recycled, polyester breaks down into microplastics for years, damaging wildlife and emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Moreover, fast fashion produces much more CO2 emissions, between the transport of goods from warehouses to stores all over the world. It’s no wonder, then, that a 2021 World Economic Forum report estimates that the fashion industry generates 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, taking into account the materials used, production method and transportation activities.
Certainly, the concept of sustainability is on the rise, with more and more brands trying to meet the environmental demands of consumers. However, we cannot guarantee sustainability without transparency. According to the Fashion Transparency Index, fast fashion brands fall seriously short when it comes to disclosing their human rights and environmental practices.
The first step is to bring about change in the fashion industry by encouraging new entrants to source sustainable materials and decarbonise their supply chain. Global citizens around the world can avoid the harmful effects of fast fashion by making better consumer choices.
For starters, here are seven ways to eliminate fast fashion from your life and take action to defend the planet.
1. Buy sustainable and ethical fashion brands
One of the best ways to make sure our clothing choices don’t harm the environment is by choosing where we buy our clothes. Not only will your carbon footprint be low, but you will also contribute to promoting fair labor practices for workers around the world.
In 2019, an Oxfam report, based on interviews with workers in garment factories in Bangladesh and Vietnam, found that less than 1% of respondents indicated adequate working conditions and decent wages.
Sustainable brands pay close attention to every step of the supply chain when producing and selling their products, from sourcing recycled materials to ensuring fair wages for employees in the clothing industry. Before you shop for clothes, take a look at your favorite brand’s mission and values to find out if it shares its social and environmental policies or to find out how it ranks in the Fashion Transparency Index.
2. Buy less often and of better quality
Fast fashion brands have managed to convince us that we always need the latest items in our wardrobe to find happiness. Still, these parts are usually made of cheap materials that don’t last, forcing us to buy more. To fight fast fashion, you have to be demanding with the clothes you wear.
Do you really need three thin cloth black t-shirts you have? Why not buy one made from 100% cotton from sustainable practices? Not only will you look better dressed, but you’ll feel better about what you’re wearing!
3. Donate or sell your little worn clothes
When your favorite jeans get too small or you’ve left a cold climate and you have more sweaters than you need, give your clothes a second life. From donation centers and shelters to thrift stores, there are plenty of opportunities to redistribute the clothes you don’t need, without harming the environment. Make sure your clothes are clean and in good condition.
4. Arrange a clothes swap
If you’re not ready to donate clothes you no longer like, try sharing your wardrobe with friends. Clothes swapping can be a great way to get new clothes without opening your wallet.
Maybe you’ve been wearing the same denim jacket every day and want to borrow your friend’s sweater? Got a new pair of shoes they’ve been craving for months? Moreover, no exchange is irreversible: it is always possible to change your mind and exchange your clothes again!
5. Buy or rent second-hand clothes
If you like shopping to refresh your wardrobe, go for second-hand clothes. Thrift stores around the world offer unique and vintage pieces and more and more merchants are using the concept of second-hand to combat fast fashion.
A study published by the Finnish scientific journal Environmental Research Letters in 2021 indicates that renting clothes is more harmful to the environment than throwing them away, especially given the consequences of transport and dry cleaning. Still, members of the clothing rental industry have refuted these findings, saying that clothing rental can slow down customer consumption and extend the life of clothing that would otherwise end up in a landfill, reducing carbon emissions.
There is not one option that will make the fashion industry sustainable, but rather a combination of several options that can reduce its harmful effects on the environment. By creating thrift stores and online rental stores, consumers can take a stand against overproduction and reduce their carbon footprint.
6. Recycle clothing and textiles
Some brands are aware of their negative impact on the environment and are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint. For example, Madewell, Levi’s and H&M offer consumers the opportunity to recycle their used clothing.
Once salvaged, your old socks and ripped jeans can be reused to make new clothes or turned into insulation for homes. Check if your nearest recycling center or favorite store has a collection system for clothing and textiles.
7. Reuse your old clothes
When was the last time you made something from scratch? If you can’t find a recycling or recycling program for used clothes, why not take the initiative and make something new from the old?
Old t-shirts can turn into cleaning rags and, in the process, eliminate paper towels. You can also start making stuffed animals or dolls, or make quilts or scarves from what you already have at home.
You can join the Global Citizen Live campaign by taking action here to defend the planet and end poverty, and be part of a movement led by citizens around the world working with governments, businesses and philanthropists. take action to change things.