Once again, London is in the spotlight of the fashion world again, so I think it’s a good opportunity to talk about the fashion industry’s ecological footprint. Let me clarify that in my opinion, buying a few good, ethically produced clothes every now and then, that are made without plastic components or harmful coating is acceptable. I also find it acceptable to buy almost unlimited items when they are second hand and just keep swapping and thrifting them around. The problem begins, when someone gets addicted to buying fashion items: accumulating clothes that are not at all – still always have the feeling that they have nothing to wear -, or hardly being worn. When it becomes an obsession, a substitution. (Even getting into debt in order to buy new clothes.) I see so many Instagram accounts only showing a person’s sole interest in fashion, beauty and make-up.
Fast fashion is often a choice of getting more of it, for less money. The clothes are cheaper, the fast fashion brands are churning out countless collections in each season, they are available to order online, if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t matter: the clothes are cheap, sometimes it doesn’t even worth returning them.
As you might know already, one of my favourite pet hates is fast fashion. Fast fashion embodies a lot of things going to the wrong direction in our days: promoting over-consuming, endangering the environment, harming people’s self-esteem and creating dangerous addictive habits and fuelling unethical practices in the process of manufacturing. Currently, fast fashion is responsible for about 8% of all the CO2 emissions, which means that the carbon footprint of the industry is BIGGER than airline industry’s. Good news is: we DON’T have to feed the monster. Here’s how.
1. Shop second-hand
I always promote “second-hand first” because I believe we already produced so much stuff that we really should reuse those at the first place. By buying second-hand clothes you support circular economy (often a charity too, here in the UK) and you save clothes and shoes ending up in landfill. Creating new products requires raw material, the manufacturing process to create a new item, the energy, the shipping etc. and all this has an environmental impact. Whilst reusing and buying a second hand item is a lot better for the environment.
2. Organise clothes swaps
Clothes swaps are not only a good way to get rid of your unwanted clothes and freshen up your wardrobe on an eco-friendly way but they are also good fun: a chance for friends to meet or make new friends. There are more and more pop-up clothes swap events are around, but you can also organise your own: just invite a few friends, everyone brings a plus one, the clothes to swap and some nibbles – and you’re set!
3. Buy ethically made new clothes
Throwaway fashion is one of the worst offenders and is unsustainable. Often with unethical production (child labour, wages that don’t even hit the living limit, unsafe and health damaging working conditions, disrespecting fundamental human rights – just to mention some) and deliberately causing environmental harm. What we need to look out when buying ethically made new items are: if they are sustainably produced, the transparency of the supply chain, where was it made, quality of the clothes – if they last and the respect of human and animal rights. All ethical brand make these information available on their webpages, so we just have to check them. Transparency is the key.
4. Read the labels
Fast fashion garments are often far from being organic: there’s a lot of plastic involved, in fact. Polyester, nylon, acrylic and polyamide. And here’s the problem: every time we wash these materials they shed millions of plastic microfibres. These microfibres are then travelling back to the waters, leaching into the environment just by washing these clothes. In the end, they’re adding to the micro plastic pollution that’s accumulating in the food chain and being ingested by all sorts of marine wildlife, and eventually by humans.
5. Buy less, buy better
Spending less and considering carefully what to spend the money on is a the way forward for the fashion industry to renew. itself, which actually means reverting to the era before fast fashion: buying less but better quality. Buying better means consumers are being consumer activists, and exercising their purchasing power. We all have this power: every penny we spend is casting a vote for what kind of world do we want to live in.
6. Wear items longer
The fast fashion products are being manufactured in large quantities of non renewable resources, and more than half of them are being thrown away within a year. Extending the life of clothes by 9 months of active use would reduce carbon, water & waste footprints by 4-10% I would of course suggest to go way beyond that, but these figures give you a good idea why is it important to bring your clothes to their maximum lifespan.
7. Clothes sharing
I don’t remember my mum throwing any clothes ever away. She always liked nice things but if she is obsessed about anything it is the quality of her clothing items. I remember her wearing dresses and jumpers for long years and when I turned 13 or 14 years old I started to steal her style and clothes. She has never minded, unless I didn’t tell her beforehand. For about 3-4 years, we more or less shared her wardrobe. Then during my college years we shared our clothes all the time. Sometimes even shared the cost of them and owned them jointly. It was good fun and saved a lot of money for us.
8. Separate green from greenwashing
With so many big labels bringing out “eco”, “organic” or “conscious” lines it can be hard to separate the brands for who sustainability is at the heart of their business and not a marketing sideline. Chances are if they were producing fast fashion before, they will be probably carry on with this as the cheaper labour, material and manufacturing mean bigger markup. What they really want is, not to loose customers so they produce these lines to keep them by projecting a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound.
9. Look after your clothes
Extending the life of your clothes not only helps them to wear them longer thus helping the environment but it’s good for your pocket too. Wear protective clothing, like an apron for cooking and wash them less, preferably with eco-friendly laundry detergent. I have a. post on this: The Problem of Micro Plastics in Your Clothes: 9 Eco-Friendly Laundry Tips As Stella McCartney says, “if you don’t absolutely have to clean anything, don’t clean it”.
10. Mend and fix
Learn how to darn those socks instead of throwing them away when a hole pops up – there’s still plenty of life left in them. Replace the lost buttons, or add a patch. These are simple solutions, if you’re unsure just look up “how to” video online. There are more and more sewing and mending workshops popping up all over the UK so find one near you. Alternatively, you can always find a seamstress service – often dry cleaners have them on site.