There are countless dimensions of the environmental movement. This makes getting started and finding your place within it challenging.
My way in was through fashion. While I don’t consider myself an overly fashionable person, I do value my clothing and looking nice. Over the past few years, I began growing in awareness of my fashion choices and the repercussions they may have. I was also exposed to concepts like “fast fashion” in my environmental science class during my first year of college. Through learning more about fashion, I was able to start finding my place in the environmental movement and change some of my lifestyle habits.
Let’s talk about Fashion: What is “Fast Fashion?”
To start, it is important to define our terms. Most likely, the clothing you are wearing right now would be considered fast fashion. This title refers to all clothing that is cheap, trendy, and produced at rapid rates all over the world. Stores like H&M, Zara, and Gap would all be categorized under this label.
Yes, it is affordable. And yes, it looks really cute. So how could it be that bad?
First, the materials used to make the clothes for your favorite big brands are disastrous for the environment. The most common of these materials is polyester. This is used frequently because it is inexpensive and long-lasting. However, this material is not sustainable. Its production requires the use of fossil fuels like crude oil and it is unable to be recycled.
Second, every stage of the fast fashion life cycle is wasteful. Most obvious to consumers is the waste produced from our own closets. Styles are constantly coming in and out of style. The push through social media is to always be shopping and adding to your wardrobe. But what happens when that clothing item is no longer trendy? If you don’t donate or sell your clothes, they most likely go straight to the landfill. This accumulates quickly, and the EPA reports that over 11 million tons of clothing ends up in landfills each year.
Third, the production methods are harmful to both humans and the environment. Everything from dyes, materials, and even transportation of goods is damaging to the overall health of people and the planet. Fossil fuels are emitted throughout the production process and harmful chemicals enter into waterways. Additionally, many clothing factories are found in developing nations where workers are typically severely underpaid and face dangerous conditions.
The damaging effects of the fast fashion industry are endless.
A Call to Change
I will admit that I am guilty of partaking in the fast fashion industry. The convenience at times is hard to pass up. However, I try as best I can to make my fashion choices sustainable. Some ways that I do this are by shopping second hand, borrowing clothes from friends, or by looking into companies that produce sustainable clothing.
Changing a lifestyle habit is extremely difficult and I am not calling each of you reading to go and purge your closet. Instead, I ask that the next time you purchase a piece of clothing, consider all of the elements and make the best choice possible. By doing so, we can all work towards being better stewards of God’s creation.