As demand in the fashion industry ascends to record-breaking levels year over year, the negative environmental impact caused by large clothing brands continues to grow exponentially. Globally, the apparel industry is worth an astounding $2.6 trillion and counting – that’s around the same size as India’s GDP! With all this money being spent on inventory, there is bound to be waste – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Fast fashion is responsible for immense waste, water pollution, illegal child labor, and the use of toxic chemicals. For instance, dyeing textiles is the second largest polluter of clean water around the world. Even the simple act of growing cotton involves insane amounts of water and toxic chemicals that permanently ruin the soil’s fertility. So, here are five things you can do to curb fast fashion and help the Earth heal:
1) Find out who made the clothes you’re wearing. It seems simple enough, but this one is super important. The fashion industry alone employs about 45 million people – 85% of those people being women. This collection of hard working textile experts are some of the lowest paid people on the job force. So, when you’re buying clothes from big brands, make sure to ask their representatives if the clothes were made ethically and in a safe environment. Was everyone in the factory paid a living wage? Were they allowed time off and pregnancy leave? It’s important to know these things before proceeding with a purchase. If they’re not sure, it’s not a good sign.
2) Buy less and buy vintage. Instead of buying 3 shirts for $20 each from The Gap, think about buying one shirt for $60 that is made by a local artisan like Dirty But Delicate so you can support a small business while wearing a one of a kind, locally produced piece of art that lasts forever. Another good option is to shop vintage. It can be hard to get through all those racks, but it’s worth it for a great find.
3) Don’t buy something thinking you’ll donate it later. You won’t. You’ll probably forget about it in the back of your closet, and that item will go to waste. Make sure to buy clothes with intention and love. Many people make thoughtless purchases on a whim, and it’s part of the reason that 73% of the 53 million tons of textile fibers are burnt or packed into landfills year after year.
4) Shop ethically on the internet. There are a lot of brands out there claiming to be “eco-friendly” and to “give back,” but what does that really mean? And at what cost? Websites like Dressember, Good On You, and The Ethical Brand Directory are great places to start your search for brands that make the Earth (and your body) feel good.
5) It’s all about materials. Be sure to keep an eye out for what things are made from. The best materials to buy are recycled cotton, nylon and wool. Polyester can release microfibers that add to the plastic content in our oceans. Other great fabrics to wear include organic hemp and linen. There are even fibers made from bamboo that are catching on.
This is a good place to start – and don’t beat yourself up if you miss some of the five. In our modern world with ads thrown at you via Instagram every ten seconds, it’s almost impossible to get every purchase right. But if you follow even a couple of these steps, you’ll be setting a good example for your friends and helping Mother Earth get back on track.