Sustainability Series: The Fashion Industry

The fashion industry is constantly evolving and is therefore creating excess clothing that usually ends up in landfills Fast fashion is now a large business fed by low cost production systems. Creating new clothing designs every few weeks takes a toll on the environment. The industry has a huge environmental impact since it is manufacturing clothes that typically require gallons of water and harmful chemicals. This then emits extremely significant amounts of greenhouse gases. According to The World Bank, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the world’s annual carbon emissions. The fashion industry also uses 93 billion cubic metres of water annually; this is enough to meet the needs of 5 million people!

What is Fast Fashion?

“Fast fashion” is a term used for designs that move to retail quickly, in order to capture current fashion trends. Most of the time, these pieces of clothing are inexpensive and pollute the planet. The process that covers the entire lifecycle from design to manufacturing can sometimes take under 20 days! Companies are no longer creating long lasting, good quality clothes but instead they are creating inexpensive, unsustainable and wasteful clothes that are usually dumped in landfills after a few wears. These companies also tend to underpay their workers and there is usually no transparency around topics such as environmental impact, false messages and greenwashing (I will go into more detail about these topics in part 2).

Our job as consumers

Although there are many negative aspects of the fast fashion industry, we as consumers are the ones who can make a change. If we all actively try to make an effort no matter how small it may be, we can create a long lasting impact to the industry.

However, no one is perfect and a lot of the time we want to purchase a clothing item from a fast fashion brand. To lessen the impact of these purchases there are a few thigs you can do. Firstly make sure that you are only purchasing pieces that you actually like or basic clothing items that you will wear for as long as it lasts. So many of our opinions on fashion are led by trends we see online so make sure the items you are buying are timeless and not just trends. Even if you end up not wanting a clothing item anymore, you can always donate your clothes to charity or pass them down to a sibling or a friend. There are also many reselling sites which help you do this in a few minutes. Allowing others to buy second-hand items means that you are not helping fast fashion brands create excessive waste!

If you are ever unsure whether a brand is ethical or sustainable, then you should download the app “Good on You”. This app rates many popular brands based on three categories, planet, people and animals. The app also shows a detailed summary of the reasoning behind the rating. Furthermore, purchasing from sustainable brands is also a big step towards reducing your impact on the environment.

So where should we shop if we want to start shopping sustainability?

If you do want to dip your toes into sustainable and environmentally friendly fashion, here are some brands that I would recommend with their sustainability and transparency ratings. These brands will have long lasting, good quality garments and although they are on the pricier side, buying these clothes will prevent you from having to replace items multiple times.

*Sustainability and Price Ratings are from Good on You (https://directory.goodonyou.eco/)

  • Patagonia – Price Rating: $$,

        Sustainability Rating: Planet – 4/5  People –  3/5  Animals – 3/5

  • Pact – Price Rating: $$,

           Sustainability Rating: Planet – 4/5  People –  4/5  Animals – 4/5

  • Organic Basics – Price Rating: $$,

          Sustainability Rating: Planet – 5/5  People –  4/5  Animals – 4/5

  • Veja – Price Rating: $$,

          Sustainability Rating: Planet – 4/5  People –  5/5  Animals – 3/5

I’d like to end this post by saying that not everyone can buy from these brands, and as long as you are not overconsuming and buying things that you know you will never wear again, you are still helping our planet!