Fast fashion is killing the environment

Image Source: Sourcing Journal

By Faye Couros | @CourosFaye

The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world, and the environment will not survive if our consumer habits don’t change.

Fast fashion companies like H&M, Topshop, and Zara churn out affordable clothes inspired by runway designs and trends.

These mega retailers sell shirts that make for convincing Gucci dupes, and probably sell that runway dress you can’t afford.

They also feature items pulled straight from Instagram, so you too can look like your favourite Instagram model.

If you want, you can update your wardrobe for a small fortune every month and avoid being seen in the same outfit twice.

This is the world we live in – one of excess and overconsumption – and while it’s fun to experiment with your look on a budget, there is a dark side to our shopping habits.

According to the United Nations Environment website, ‘the fashion industry produces 20 per cent of global wastewater and 10 per cent of global carbon emissions’.

To put this into perspective, the United Nations emphasises these percentages equate to more damage to our environment than ‘international flights and maritime shipping’ combined.

The documentary ‘The True Cost’ is about the devastating consequences fashion has on the poor.

Online, The True Cost also talks about the industries’ carbon footprint.

According to them, ‘the world now consumes 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year’; an increase of 400 per cent compared to the 1990s alone.

We have found ourselves entangled within a messy consumerist culture that will not sustain us, and will devastate our environment.

Our first cause of action is to change the way we view fashion and shopping.

H&M has recycling garment boxes in their stores for shoppers to leave their unwanted textiles in (and receive a voucher for their donation).

According to Zara’s parent company Inditex, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index has rewarded the company for some of the best environmental retail practices.

While this shows there is some progress and not all companies are terrible, the damage fast fashion contributes to our land fields and the environment is only growing.

In our efforts to correct our fashion consumption, perhaps it is time to turn to different avenues and resources.

For instance, there are plenty of environmentally conscious Australian labels available to buy sustainable pieces.

Bassike is a clothing and shoe brand that uses organic cotton to reduce their chemical footprint.

Nagnata is a label making use of organic, recycled and sustainable materials.

Buying from vintage and second-hand shops will decrease the demand for fast fashion.

Chloe McGregor is the store manager at the Red Cross Rundle Street store and according to her, buying second-hand is shopping smarter.

“Buying second-hand is much more sustainable for the environment, and vintage clothes were made much sturdier and built to last,” Ms McGregor said.

Ms McGregor notes that buying already made clothes reduces the amount of “synthetic fibers and chemicals that enter the atmosphere to produce new and fast fashion”.

Digital assets and rights executive for News Corp Katrina Trinh recently started buying exclusively sustainable clothes.

“I am slowly driving away from fast fashion products … I hope eventually my purchases will be 100% sustainable products,” Ms Trinh said.

Since Australian politicians have denied climate change publicly and there seems to be little investment in sustainability, the onus falls on Australian shoppers to change the narrative.

“I wanted to make this change because of the environmental effects and harm that comes from the fashion industry.

“I’ve also learnt that Australia has big challenges alone, there is little investment in advanced technologies or textile/material recycling and no existing government engagements on clothing waste issues,” Ms Trinh said.

It seems consumers are slowly but surely starting to change their spending habits.

Good On You is an app created to help shoppers make considered, ethical and environmental decisions about the fashion they consume.

“I have noticed a significant increase in the interest and awareness of buying second-hand over the past few years, and I believe it will legitimately be the future of fashion,” Ms McGregor said.

To become a mindful consumer and to decrease fast fashions impact on the environment, it’s about shopping smarter, not easier.

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