Behind the latest trends and glamor of the fashion industry lies an appalling truth: fast fashion kills.
The fashion industry is responsible for countless environmental atrocities. Not only is it the second-largest corporate consumer of water in the world, but it also requires significant usage of fossil fuels for the energy-intensive production of different synthetic fabrics like polycystic, nylon and acrylic.
Fast fashion is the production of cheaply made clothing items intended for short-term wear, and the status quo of the industry is to use thousands of different chemicals to bleach and dye
garments. These chemicals have severe negative side effects on workers’ health and pollute bodies of water.
In addition, microplastics, contained in synthetic fabrics, break off every time the clothing is washed and make their way into the oceans. These microplastics often end up in our food.
Alarmingly, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 16 million tons of textiles are discarded each year, and over 60% of all apparel is produced with harmful synthetic fabrics.
These statistics are not set in stone; however, the clothes we wear have real environmental implications.
Sustainable fashion, or slow fashion, is the movement away from fast fashion. Choosing to live sustainably is a conscious effort toward both ecological integrity and social justice. Sustainable fashion means reimagining the entire supply chain, minimizing waste and fossil fuels, providing safe working environments and livable wages, and migrating toward the usage of sustainable materials and textiles.
Sustainability has become a buzzword in many sectors of fashion, and as such, various companies have begun their transition to more eco-friendly materials. However, consumers should be conscious of greenwashing, a deceptive marketing practice where companies convey falsehoods about their environmental sustainability.
For example, H&M’s Conscious collection, pitched as a clothing line made from more sustainable materials, was found to contain a higher amount of damaging synthetic materials than its main line. Even if you see a green tag with the image of the Earth, your new find is not automatically sustainable.
Nonetheless, a sustainability revolution can come only when there is a shift in the way we consume.
Simply put, humans buy too many things. Global consumer culture assures us that more is always better, and far too often that means we substitute quality for quantity. If humans can wire our brains toward a more thoughtful purchasing mentality, buying items created ethically and made to last, our purchasing habits can become much more sustainable. This transition to sustainable fashion is far easier in theory than in practice, but any step is progress.
Shopping sustainably is not reserved for wealthy individuals, and even on a college student budget, you can make an impact.
Georgetown students can increase their sustainable shopping habits both on and off campus. For example, you can participate in the clothing swaps that Uncommon Grounds and GREEN hold at the farmers markets. Washington, DC is home to many thrift and second-hand shops like St. Alban’s Church Opportunity Shop, Martha’s Outfitters and Rosario’s Thrift Store to name a few.
Other online options to stop sustainably include Depop, Poshmark, eBay, thredUP, Tradesy and Swap. Some other sustainable, but not second-hand, shops include Yes And, Honest Basics, CHNGE, Everlane and Boody.
Some sustainable shops tend to be more expensive, but they make clothing that is intended to stay in your wardrobe for a long time. However, since not everyone can afford these clothing items, second-hand shopping is a great, affordable alternative.
In the next decade, more companies will hopefully transition toward more sustainable sourcing and less waste production. The environmental impact of the fashion industry has been detrimental, but nonetheless, the ugly side of fashion is finally being exposed.
The fight for sustainability, though, is not about perfection. Being a sustainable shopper means being conscious. It means making an effort to support sustainable companies and being aware of your purchasing habits. It means caring about future generations and our shared home.
Forests are on fire, cities are being submerged, communities cannot breathe from poor air quality, towns are being destroyed by hurricanes and people are dying. The environment unites us in a way that nothing else does. Sustainability isn’t just a fad; it’s the future.