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Buying stylish clothes at an affordable price is appealing to most consumers, but it can have negative impacts on our environment. Known as fast fashion, this industry offers low prices on clothing, but it comes at a hidden cost. Thanks to a rise in the human population and the increasing popularity of fashion-related social media content, people often think they need more clothes than they really do. In fact, humans are consuming a whopping 400% more clothing today than they were 20 years ago. Behind the automotive and technology industries, clothing is the third biggest manufacturing industry in the world. However, fashion manufacturers are responsible for five percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, producing 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year. If you want to learn how to avoid fast fashion by buying more sustainable clothing, read on to learn more.
What is Fast Fashion?
The term fast fashion refers to a highly profitable industry that mass produces clothing, shoes, and accessories based on the latest trends. This clothing is available at a low cost, but most products aren’t exactly made of the highest quality. Since trends come and go, most people who buy fast fashion items wear them short-term, then dispose of them. In many ways, it has dangerous repercussions on the environment.
The effects of Fast Fashion on the environment: Because this clothing is made at large manufacturing plants, it uses a massive amount of energy and natural resources. Some chemicals used in dyes and manufacturing can contaminate the soil and nearby waterways. As a whole, the industry produces a tenth of the world’s total carbon emissions. Producing items like jeans requires several thousand gallons of water, making it a wasteful industry as well. And, since this clothing is “disposable,” most fast fashion items end up in a landfill which contributes to pollution. On average, each American throws away approximately 80 pounds of clothing every year. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to reduce your consumption and carbon footprint.
What is Ethical and Sustainable Fashion?
Ethical and sustainable fashion uses materials that are made and marketed in a responsible way that takes its environmental and socioeconomic impacts into account. Ideally, the process of sustainable fashion is performed across a garment’s entire life cycle from the manufacturing process all the way to its disposal. In addition to having a smaller carbon footprint, this type of fashion pays attention to the ethical aspects too. People who work for these companies are paid a living wage and work in safe environments. Here are some examples of sustainable and ethical fashion.
Slow Fashion: Think of slow fashion as the exact opposite of fast fashion. Brands have an understanding and approach to fashion that takes the manufacturing process and resources it requires into consideration when making clothing. This industry holds a high value on the fair treatment of people, animals, and the environment. Many brands also focus on making fewer pieces and higher-quality items, so they last longer and don’t end up in a landfill.
Vegan Fashion: Vegan fashion produces clothing and accessories without the use of animal-derived materials. Anything from leather and fur to silk, feathers, wool, and angora are avoided. Eco-friendly and recyclable materials are often used to make vegan fashion. When buying vegan fashion products, make sure that they are still produced in a sustainable manner.
Circular Fashion: In the circular fashion industry, materials and production are well thought out, and the company looks deeper at how each item can be used in a more sustainable way from manufacturing to disposal. It also takes things a step further by designing out waste and pollution by using recyclable or biodegradable materials. Some companies also make repurposed items out of old products, ensuring that these items remain in the life cycle of clothing rather than going to a landfill.
How can you make a change?
There are some things you can do to develop a more sustainable wardrobe, including:
Buying sustainable clothing and reducing your fashion carbon footprint
Here are a few ways you can purchase sustainable clothing while reducing your carbon footprint:
Eco clothing buying guide and tips
Keep these clothes buying and eco-fashion tips in mind when shopping for a new wardrobe.
Is Eco-Fashion only for the rich?
You may think that buying eco-fashion is just for the rich, but there are ways to find amazing eco-friendly clothes at an affordable price.
How expensive are eco clothes? Many sustainable brands charge a higher price because they produce less clothing or have smaller operations. It also costs more in general to produce eco-friendly products. While some eco-fashion brands are high-end, others offer their products to consumers at prices that are closely in line with less sustainable competitors. You can find some eco clothes second-hand to get them at a lower price too. Shop sale events and look for discount codes to get eco-friendly clothes for less.
Why are they worth it? While this clothing may cost more upfront, it tends to last longer which means you’re getting more for your money and the cost is reduced compared to the number of times you wear it. It also may cost more because the company is paying a living wage. If you’re concerned about the ethics of fast fashion, then paying more money is worth it to ensure that workers are getting paid a reasonable salary. The cost of sustainable materials also tends to be higher, since these materials are produced in smaller batches and require more work to make. Overall, the price is a small one to pay if you’re concerned about the harmful effects of fast fashion.
Looking at the things we buy and realizing that we’re causing more damage than we realize is the first step toward making a positive change. When you learn about the harmful effects of fast fashion and know what to look for, you can start to make smarter purchasing decisions. Consider starting a capsule wardrobe, looking for secondhand clothing, and only buying products from truly sustainable brands, so you can make a difference. Together we can all move to a more sustainable lifestyle!
Originally posted on Porch.com
“Cheap prices make us believe they bring about savings for consumers. This may appear true in the short term, with a narrow focus and looking just at the money in our wallets, but all of us, as global citizens, will ultimately end up paying the external cost, the true cost for the unsustainable consumption and production of cheap clothing.” - Fashion Revolution