As a society we are becoming more aware of the impacts of fast fashion, but there are still changes to be made. The fashion industry accounts for around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, but there are many ways to reduce the impact your wardrobe has on the climate. The environmental impact of flying is well known, but the fashion industry actually uses up more energy than both aviation and shipping combined. Companies, designers and consumers need to make changes to reduce this. This article will focus on the steps that you can take to become a conscious yet still fashionable consumer, also highlighting the companies that are paving the way and some that are still behind on the times.
The #30 wears test
Livia Firth, the founder of Eco Age, began the #30Wears campaign to encourage consumers to only buy an item if they know that they will wear it. Every time you buy something think: Will I wear it a minimum of 30 times? If the answer is yes, then buy it. But you will be surprised by how many times you say no. Invest in something with longevity that you can wear again and again. Pick versatile pieces that can be styled in multiple ways, rather than one item you know is going to go quickly out of fashion.
This is the responsibility of not just consumers, but fashion companies as well. Pretty Little Thing for example, sell clothes that were once £70 for 5p during their flash sales, usually on Black Friday, making fast fashion fashionable. To break this cycle, there needs to be less demand for cheap unsustainable clothing. Pretty Little Thing needs to make more conscious decisions when it comes to fabric choices, creating classic pieces, not trend based collections. This will make it easier for consumers to create a timeless sustainable wardrobe.
Donate your unwanted clothes
When clothes are thrown into landfill, the chemicals and dyes used to treat them are damaging the environment around them. More than 300,000 pieces of used clothing go to landfill in the UK every year. On average each person also throws 8 pieces of clothing away, totalling a value of almost £500 annually.
However, with the rise of platforms like Depop and Vinted this is starting to change. The opportunity to earn money from unwanted clothes has meant there is a positive shift in attitude towards buying second-hand items. The stigma is fading as there is more of an awareness around the carbon footprint that fast-fashion has.
This means that instead of throwing clothes away you can donate or sell, to give your piece of clothing a new lease of life!
Look after your clothes
Although this may seem straightforward, it is an easy and simple step you can take to make your clothes last longer. Through repairing or revamping your clothes, you can make more conscious decisions and avoid clothes being sent to landfill unnecessarily.
During lockdown, everyone was tie-dying everything in their wardrobe, giving their clothing a colourful twist. Although this may have been a lockdown trend, it is something that can be carried forward into everyday life. As well as creating a capsule wardrobe that can be reworn again and again, you can make changes to your clothing, making them fresh and new.
Learn how to repair your clothes. If there is a rip in your jeans, sew/patch it instead of automatically throwing it away. This means you can enjoy your favourite pair of jeans for longer, benefiting both you and the planet.
Do your research
Consider where you shop. The emergence of slow-fashion companies has meant that there is lots of choice. Companies that use environmentally friendly fabrics and sustainable manufacturing methods are much more common compared to a few years ago. For example, the sustainable shop TALA creates environmentally friendly activewear items that do not break the bank.
However, you must always be mindful of greenwashing. This is when companies mislead consumers to believe that their products are more environmentally friendly than they actually are. There needs to be full transparency from companies to avoid this. This was highlighted recently when Boohoo released their sustainable collection, that wasn’t as sustainable as it first appeared. Some clothing was made out of the difficult to recycle acrylic fabric.
Companies mislead consumers to believe that their products are more environmentally friendly than they actually are.
A Positive Future
There are simple steps which shoppers can take to become more environmentally friendly and make sustainable consumption choices. These can include investing in high quality pieces and creating a wardrobe that is not only eco-friendly, but also trendy.
Both companies and consumers can become more sustainable by choosing fabrics wisely, donating and reselling clothes when they are no longer needed. This pattern of sustainable behaviour will only increase as consumers become more aware of the damaging impacts of fast fashion. Data suggests that 1 in 3 consumers are already considering the environmental impact when buying their clothes, showing a positive future for consumer choices.