Fast fashion is all about making trendy clothes quickly and cheaply. It’s become more popular as people look for new clothes at lower prices. But what many people don’t realize is that fast fashion has a big impact on the environment.
Did you know Australians are some of the biggest consumers of clothes in the world? On average, we only wear an article of clothing seven times before we get rid of it. That’s a lot of waste which can take hundreds of years to decompose!
As a fashion lover, my wardrobe is an expression of my personality. However, I’m increasingly mindful of the implications of my choices. Do I really need that extra sweater or pair of jeans? And what are the long-term implications of my purchase on the environment?
In this blog, I want to talk about how fast fashion affects our environment and share 3 tips to reduce its impact.
Let’s get started!
The fashion industry underwent a shift in the early 2000s. Led by powerhouses such as Zara, H&M and Topshop, brands moved to use less expensive synthetic fibers. The result was cheaper fast fashion, leading to the growing perception by consumers that garments were disposable.
A report by The Guardian in 2022 found that our love for fast fashion has led to 260,000 tonnes of clothes getting thrown away every year in Australia – that’s about ten kilograms per person.
Environmental consequences of fast fashion
Synthetics such as polyester, nylon or acrylic place huge environmental impact on our natural resources. The water needed to grow cotton for the humble pair of jeans is estimated to be 10,000 litres and for a t-shirt, roughly 2700 litres.
But that’s not all.
There are harmful chemical releases associated with the dying and bleaching of clothing, not to mention the methane greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere from the clothing that ends in landfill. At this rate, by 2050, our unwanted garments could be responsible for over 26% of the world’s carbon budget associated with global warming.
So, as environmentally minded consumers, how do we reduce our impact on our planet’s resources?
Today, thanks partly to programs such as ABC-TV’s War on Waste series, we’ve become more aware of the need for our society to slow down the volume of clothing heading to landfill.
But as fashion followers, how do we reconcile our love of clothes with sustainability of our planet?
The following are three tips that can help in moving towards a more sustainable future.
Tips on Reduce the Environmental Impact From Fast Fashion
Tip 1. Alternative to fast fashion
Ultimately, as consumers, the buck stops with us. We are responsible for the problems associated with fast fashion. Here are some alternatives to tackle the problem head-on:
- Make do with what’s in your wardrobe. Wearing our clothes for a few months longer can have a dramatic effect on the volume that ends up in landfill.
- Up-cycle, swap, rent or buy secondhand.
- Buy fewer but better quality garments designed to last. Follow #30wearschallenge
- Sew your clothes. It’s guaranteed they’d be one of a kind and you’ll enjoy the satisfaction that comes from making your own garments.
- Learn how to do minor repairs. Thread a needle and give it a go!
Tip 2. Know your fibres
For the past decade there’s been increasing interest, especially among millennials, to buy eco-friendly, recycled textiles.
To help consumers navigate between clothing companies’ false and real claims of eco-friendly garments, Made-By developed a benchmark for fibres, ranking them according to greenhouse gas emissions, human toxicity, energy, water and land use. You can learn more about the benchmark here.
Tip 3. Join the circular movement.
Aimed at minimising waste and making the most of the resources, the circular economy challenges fashion’s linear production line that ends with clothes being discarded in landfill.
Increasingly, consumers are turning to brands they feel are aligned with their values and beliefs. Retailers such as H&M have responded to this demand by introducing Close the Loop range – their recycled-origin, natural-fibre clothing line.
If handy with a sewing machine, try your hand at recycling your old clothes into non-clothing products: jeans into tote-bags or old t-shirts into makeup wipes or patchwork garments.
Fast fashion is a major contributor to environmental problems. The production of fast fashion requires a lot of resources, and the disposal of clothes often ends up in landfills. However, there are things you can do to reduce your impact on the environment. By following the above tips, you can help to reduce the environmental impact of your wardrobe and make a difference for our planet.
Remember, we are the custodians of our planet. Its future, health, and sustainability are our responsibility.
Let’s work together to make fashion more sustainable!
What did you think? Do you agree or disagree with the tips? What changes will you make to reduce the environmental impact of your wardrobe?
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