The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion
As consumers, we have the ability to influence producers and manufacturers with the choices we make when spending money on products or services. Whether you are purchasing sustainably made décor and design items or supporting your local grocer, it all adds up. For many, however, there is a lack of knowledge when it comes to the environmental impacts of consumerist behaviour. The fast fashion industry is a prime example of this. Fast fashion refers to often cheap, mass-produced clothing that follows seasonal trends. We are encouraged to buy the latest skirts, shirts, dresses and shoes that will go out of fashion rapidly. Fast fashion is often poorly made and therefore is not built to stand the test of time in your wardrobe. This then results in mass wastage when product lines are meant to be discarded so quickly.
There has been a growing movement towards sustainable fashion over the last few years. These brands combine classic pieces that are well made and will not go out of fashion in the near future, with sustainable manufacturing practices. One designer brand that has led the way for sustainable fashion for many years includes Stella McCartney. The brand’s mission statement outlines how the company wishes to be a driver of change in the industry. The brand focuses on luxurious products that are made to stand the test of time, both with wear and style. Stella McCartney uses sustainable materials for products including cashmere, a zero-fur policy, organic cotton, recycled nylon, silk, wool and vegan leather. Not only are the materials sustainable, but the brand implements sustainable manufacturing processes. This includes both environmental practices and social responsibility when it comes to the people making the clothing. The labour practices are both ethical and socially sustainable.
Other larger brands are also trying to adopt a more sustainable approach. H&M has released a sustainable clothing range in their stores that consumers can purchase. While this is a great step in the right direction, the business model of the brand overall encompasses elements of consumerism and fast fashion. Other brands that have tried to become more sustainable include the Australian brand Kookai. In 2018, the company decided to create an Ethics and Sustainability committee to ensure that values of ethical behaviour and sustainability were at the core of their vision and future. These values extend across the supply chain, retail outlets, branding and IT departments.
While sustainable clothing is often more expensive than fast fashion, it will last far longer in your closet and you can be sure that the people that made the item are not suffering under poor working conditions. When an item is so cheap, often the people who are making that item are receiving inadequate pay, or can even be working in unsafe conditions. It is imperative to ensure that unfair and unsafe practices are not supported in the fashion industry. By purchasing from sustainable and ethical companies, you will be supporting this change to better working conditions for all. So whether you are looking to purchase basketball apparel or buy a fabulous handbag, it is important to research the brand and their values.
We have become a consumerist society, where status and value are often based upon what you possess. Many use fashion as a way to express a false sense of wealth or importance. We should all try to move away from these terrible ideals and focus on creating a planet that is both equal and healthy. It is estimated that approximately 10 per cent of carbon emissions come from the fashion industry each year. This figure is frightening and makes people question whether having the latest handbag is worth it.
Social media has become extremely prevalent in our decision making when it comes to online shopping, whether we realise it or not. Targeted ads creep into our newsfeed to remind us of the products we have looked at online. E-commerce companies spend huge amounts of money on digital marketing services to provide tools like search engine optimisation, Google Adwords campaigns and social media marketing campaigns. The aim of this is to lure consumers into buying products that they do not really need. The fast fashion industry is extremely guilty of doing this. When businesses are able to track your every move online to specifically target an individual, an already consumerist society is likely to buy into this advertising.
An excellent alternative to buying fast fashion includes vintage shopping or secondhand shopping. These forms of shopping are much better for the environment and you can find some really interesting and unique pieces too. Secondhand shopping is also far less expensive, so you will be able to save money this way. You could even use the money you saved to invest in a staple luxury piece of clothing made by a sustainable brand like Stella McCartney. Shopping in this way will make your wardrobe far more individual than buying mass-produced, fast fashion pieces. So, ditch the big brands that rely on a digital marketing company to be able sell any products. Let the clothing speak for itself without all of the branding and marketing.
In the end, the choices we make with our consumer dollars is the biggest driver for change. So, whether it is buying less clothing, supporting local companies or going ahead with that water tank installation; small changes all add up. If we were all to alter small elements of our lives or routines, this would have a huge overall impact on the health of our planet. It is also up to large corporations and industries to find new and improved ways of manufacturing and operating in order to decrease their environmental impact. If the fast fashion industry finds ways to recycle materials and reduce waste, the clothing industry will reduce its negative effects on the environment significantly. We should all look to support companies that are moving towards more ethical and sustainable practices.