What Does 'fast fashion' do to the environment?

Fast fashion is inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. But at what cost to the environment? And could you go for a full year without buying new clothes?

Environmental campaigners are asking consumers to think about the clothes they buy and the affect they are having on climate change and the environment. And asking, can you boycott the clothes industry for a full year, to force the fashion industry to look at how they operate? As I have been making as many moves as possible to live more sustainably at home and in my business, I’ve learned that clothing and the ‘slow fashion’ movement is becoming a massive theme.

Slow fashion is choosing good quality clothes that will last and that are made with minimal environmental impact, and where the people how made the clothes get a fair deal. So whilst we think about using less plastic, cutting down our carbon emissions, creating less waste etc. We also urgently need to think about where we spend our money in the high street.

Here’s some background, taken from the Manchester Extinction Rebellion event details: – Fashion, clothing and textiles production is one of the most polluting industries in the world, with a carbon footprint matching the whole of Russia, causing untold suffering of mistreated workers, damaging the mental health of millions through unrealistic idols of “beauty”, and resulting in massive amounts of waste and chemical pollution. – In the UK £140m worth of clothing goes to landfill each year – ‘Fashion’ creates more greenhouse gas emissions in 1 year than international flights and maritime shipping combined. – Clothing production aka ‘fashion’ has doubled globally over the last 15 years. – ‘Fashion’ is the largest source of primary and secondary microplastics, accounting for 34.8% of global microplastic pollution – yet you’ll be charged 5p for a bag. – 30% of ‘fashion’ purchased in a year never gets worn. I think you’ll agree that these are pretty shocking facts. We have become used to the idea that we can buy something cheaply, not value it, and then throw it away. With just a little adjustment to these ideals, we can not only help to make a big difference to climate change, but also save money.

So what can you do to stop fast fashion? Here are five really simple ways to promote sustainable/slow fashion:

  • Ask ‘Who made my clothes?’ – demand more transparency from your favourite brands.

  • Look into your wardrobe a little more carefully and think about what you already have and really make the most of it. Know and treasure what you own.

  • Wash Smart – wash cool, use eco-detergent, air dry, it will make your clothes last much longer.

  • Upcycle, Repair and Share – make each piece last, or find someone locally who can mend and alter clothes, that way you’re supporting a local business too.

  • Shop Less and Buy Well – when you buy, buy second-hand, ethical, organic and only items you love and that will last. Have a look in your local charity shops or on eBay or even Etsy?

I’m quite happy to do this as I’ve never particularly been into fashion, so for me, not buying new clothes for a year will be easy. It is harder for young people who want to have the latest fashions all the time. But if we can rethink our obsession with having to have the latest thing, perhaps we can make a change. Who wants to look like everyone else anyway? Do you think you can go for a full year without buying new clothes?

You can read a little more about the fashion industry in this BBC article.

Lisa Johnson

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