Summer is coming, lockdowns are (hopefully!) ending, and we are starting to think about re-emerging into society. At the start of every season, we are bombarded by marketing for new clothing, new trends, and new looks, not to mention all of the sales to get rid of the prior season’s clothes. While this happens every season, the convergence of things opening back up with the start of summer makes this season’s marketing efforts feel doubly aggressive.
I’m embarrassed to admit that up until a few years ago, I had no idea about the impact the fashion industry has on the planet. While the public has been inundated about the environmental impact of industries such as energy and food production, up until recently, the fashion industry seemed to escape much scrutiny. However, once the impacts are examined, the findings are eye-popping.
According to the World Economic Forum, the fashion industry produces 10% of all carbon emissions, and is the world’s second largest consumer of global water supply. This is in large part driven by the explosion of the “fast-fashion” industry. Good On You defines fast fashion as “cheap, trendy clothing that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into garments in high street stores at breakneck speed to meet consumer demand.” Because clothes are so inexpensive, as well as so clearly defined by a certain season in a certain year, people buy more clothing, wear it for a shorter period of time, either because it is no longer in style or because the quality is poor, and then dispose of it. The World Economic Forum’s data suggests that people bought 60% more clothing in 2014 than they did in 2000, and only kept it half as long. As a result, an astounding 85% of all textiles are thrown away each year.
WOW, huh? Ok, so now that we know this, what can be done? Well, there a lot of options, lets jump into some now!
- Buy Less – that one is pretty self-explanatory, although not always easy. A few tips to help you to buy less include:
- Unsubscribe from email lists… there have been so many times when I have not needed anything but been lured in by an email from a retailer about discounts or a friends and family event, and I figure “I may as well look!” and next thing I know I have added 5 things to my cart!
- Wait before you buy. If you are shopping online, make yourself wait 24 – 48 hours before buying the item and see if the urge passes (bonus - you will save some money!).
- Buy Used – there are so many options for finding high quality used clothes! If you have children who are constantly outgrowing their clothes, buying less is not an option, so try buying used! There are multiple boutiques, online and brick and mortar, that specialize in high quality used clothes, including Verde Bebe (bonus - this site specializes in organic cotton goods!), Merry Go Rounds Kids, Poshmark, ThredUp, My Little Outfit, Swoondle Society, and ReRuns. You can also check out your local Facebook Marketplace, or apps like Offer Up.
- Buy Sustainable – lots of brands are starting to incorporate sustainability into their practices. There are brands that make their products out of recycled plastic, including Kaiona Swimwear, Londre, and Summersalt for swimsuits; Wolven Threads and Girlfriend Collective for active wear; Rothy’s and Adidas for shoes; and Patagonia for outdoor gear. Good On You has a feature where you can search by brand or by category to see a brand's eco rating, so you can research before your buy. In addition, you can also look for clothing made from organic cotton or bamboo.
- Do a clothing swap with friends – once you are able to socialize safely, get a group of friends together to swap everything from maternity clothes, to baby clothes, to date night or occasion outfits!
- Buy Better – what percentage of your clothing do you actually wear? Buy fewer, higher quality pieces, and re-wear the heck out of them! Rather than being tethered to the latest trends, figure out what works for your body, your lifestyle, and your look, and go with it!
If you have other ideas for eco-friendly clothing choices, like shops or brands, drop them in the comments below!