You know what they say: It is possible to have too much of a good thing. That certainly seems to be the case in the fashion industry, with the world collectively consuming an incredible 80 billion new items each year.
Perhaps most alarming is that many of these items are seen as disposable and are contributing to a waste crisis. The awful truth is that fashion is the third most polluting industry in the world, after oil and gas, and agriculture.
How many items of clothing do you throw out?
No, seriously – think about it.
Compared to 25 years ago, consumers are buying five times as many clothes. Many of these end up being thrown out: The Council for Textile Recycling says that the average American tosses out 37 kilograms of textile waste every year. That’s 11 million tonnes in the US alone.
Today’s clothing is made in large part from synthetic fibres and is sometimes treated with chemicals and dyes. This has a significant impact on the environment. Once in a landfill, these fibres simply don’t break down and just a little bit of rain can cause a build-up of toxic water.
It doesn’t help that big brands often focus on speed of production and keeping costs down. They create and deliver the latest looks at a budget price, making their products hard for consumers to resist.
Eco-fashion and mindful consumption
The alternative to fast fashion is slow fashion, which is sometimes also referred to as eco-fashion or sustainable fashion. Similar to the slow food concept, slow fashion advocates for key principles such as good (as in quality), clean (production does not harm the environment) and fair (trade).
Essentially, eco-fashion encourages consumers to slow down and really think about how our actions are affecting the state of the planet, and the health and working conditions of the people making the clothes we buy.
Becoming responsibly fashionable
There’s basically no such thing as a product being 100 percent eco-friendly – all man-made items tend to involve some sort of cost to the environment – but it’s definitely possible to become more responsibly fashionable. Remember: No effort is too small, so keep these tips in mind when you decide to get started on building that sustainable wardrobe.
Purchase less clothing, but of a higher quality
Learn to consume less and buy fewer clothes, but make sure they are designed to last. You may find yourself spending a little more than usual at first, but if you take into account cost-per-wear, you’ll see that it’s worth it. It’s always better to go for an expensive jacket that still looks good three years later than fast fashion outerwear that you’ll probably ditch after six months.
Support eco-friendly, sustainable brands
It’s all about being informed and knowing the origin and story behind the products you pay for. Big names like Patagonia are known for their fair trade-certified collections and organic cotton-made apparel. Do your research before a purchase by hopping on the internet or asking questions at the store.
Organise clothing swaps
The saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” could not be more true. Clothing swaps are pure gold – they’re usually easy to organise and, best of all, everything you get is free. Who knows what amazing finds you’ll come across in your friend’s pile of unwanted clothes (and vice versa).
Get yourself some pre-loved items
On a related note to clothing swaps and pre-loved items, make it a point to visit flea markets and consignment stores to pick up second-hand clothes. Often you won’t have to pay a large amount of money for what you want, and at flea markets you can even try your hand at bargaining to score an even better deal.
Repair your garments
Spotted a tear in the side of your shirt? Don’t throw it away – fix it. Whether you do it yourself or take it to a tailor, saving your garments and repairing them is the green way to go.
Redesign old clothes
If you’ve got a creative, hands-on streak, then this is for you. If you like the design of something you already have, you could always turn it into a new article of clothing. Scarves, headbands, shorts – these are just some ideas you could play with.
Make your own capsule wardrobe
A capsule wardrobe is a collection of timeless and classic clothes that you can rotate with seasonal items. Most capsule collections hold about 30 pieces of clothing, and with this, the chances of facing decision fatigue will decrease as you’ll only have a fixed number of items to choose from every day.
Control your need for new and go for vintage items instead. The amount of new energy that’s required to produce vintage clothing is zero, so that’s a bonus.
Buy vegan leather
As a process, transforming animal skin into leather requires high levels of toxic chemicals and energy. Plus, not only is vegan leather cruelty-free but also better for the environment.