10 Easy Ways to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion
Fast fashion has taken hold of the industry. The highest negative effect is not even caused during the production phase (as many would think) but throughout the clothes' lifecycle. However, the grip might be loosening up, as consumer behavior seems to be driven more and more by sustainability and eco-friendliness. Even the smallest of steps made in the right direction can help significantly reduce fast fashion’s environmental impact. Thus, try buying less, reuse and repurpose more, donate, and stay inquisitive about the relationship between fashion (and other industries) and nature.
A Few Words About Fast Fashion
This hybrid form of fashion has evolved from feeding on the consumers' need to possess the latest clothing items that hit worldwide runways. The everyday man and woman turn towards influencers, models, and celebrities for fashion inspiration. Their clothes were (and continue to be) coveted by many, only at more affordable prices.
However, this very need was something nurtured by the fashion industry itself. Therefore, they quickly offered to answer the demand created for cheap seasonal clothing. These items are not invested with a long lifecycle, as they are meant to serve the user only for a short period after purchase. They need to be disposed of to obtain the next hot product and keep up to pace with the bewildering rhythm of fashion.
The Fast Fashion Environmental Impact
The fast-fashion environmental impact is far-reaching and further expanding. In fact, 10% of the global carbon emissions are attributed to this single source. The production of clothes can generate high amounts of carbon dioxide throughout their lifespan. To put things in perspective, a cotton shirt amounts to 2 kg of carbon dioxide, while a pair of jeans to 42 kg. However, consumer behavior can further increase or decrease these emissions.
Consumer behavior dictates the rise and fall of fashion trends. It can also be turned to good and harnessed to enact positive change. There are a number of ways we, as individuals, can alter the course of the tide. It is not so much about making fashion completely sustainable and eco-friendly (although that would certainly be lovely), but about reducing the negative fast fashion environmental impact.
1. Buy Less
Each year, the average American buys 64 clothing items and 7 pairs of shoes. The majority of which are imported goods. The products promoted by fast fashion are available to a larger customer pool because of affordable prices; however, they tend to be of lower quality. What is more, the model causes high levels of electricity and water usage in addition to large amounts of waste.
A more mindful path offers a way out from the dark area towards which we are currently heading. This can be easier than it looks at first glance. By simply shopping less, we can make a significant change in the right direction. It will lead to a chain reaction that reduces the resources required to produce and distribute garments. Not to mention that fewer clothing items will pile up in landfills.
2. Choose Sustainable Brands
Denim is a highly beloved but environmentally draining fabric. Did you know that it takes 3,781 l of water to make one pair of jeans? And this is but a small segment of its environmental impact. Many top brands have taken to amending this issue and still keep providing the coveted garment to their customers, by adopting circular production methods. This is a fundamental switch in the approach of the industry segment that impacts all stages, from design and production to product lifecycle.
The main difference is the focus on sustainability. Jeans should be made from recycled fabrics, easy to reuse, repurpose, and have a longer life cycle. Brands often attack the problem from different angles; some add biodegradable buttons, while others offer their customers a lifetime repair service. Its chief principles are that products should be designed with recycling in mind, that materials should be reused instead of new resources where possible, and that products should last longer.
3. Endorse Eco-Friendly Fabrics
One leading source of environmental problems is caused by fabric choice. While synthetic fibers may be more economical, they are not more ecological. During the production phase, oil-based materials pollute the environment by dispersing toxic chemicals. What is more, these will spread myriad microparticles during their lifecycle. The fibers eventually end up polluting the waters causing significant damage to sea life. To lower this risk, consider using microfiber washing bags and decreasing the frequency of washes.
Try your best to identify these fabrics when shopping and avoid them. Simply check the tag of an item, and you will learn from what material it was made. If you are keen on wearing synthetics, try your best to prolong their life cycle by reusing and donating them once you have had your share of uses.
Still, the ideal solution is to look for natural alternatives, like cotton, canvas, or silk, to mention just a few. In fact, organic cotton production could drastically reduce fast fashion’s environmental impact by reducing water consumption and the use of dangerous chemicals.
4. Look Out for Recycled Products
An increasingly higher number of brands offer recycled or upcycled clothing items. You can further encourage this trend by purchasing their products. The main difference between recycling and upcycling lies in the technique. While recycled clothes are made from broken-down garments, upcycled ones are created from pieces of existing items. Still, both are highly sustainable as they take an old garment and turn it into a crisp new one.
Consumerism lies at the heart of fast fashion. Customers are drawn into a closed loop of shop-wear-discard-repeat. Still, we can break free from the cycle by reusing. Instead of discarding recently bought clothing items to make more room in the closet for the new collection, consider keeping what you love and reuse them. When purchasing a new piece, go with something that brings you joy.
When you decide that it is time to part from a favorite clothing item, rather than sending it to the landfill, try offering it a new life. Transform an old T-shirt or pair of jeans into something completely new, like a tote bag or a cover. Your possibilities are endless.
7. Stay Away From Bleached Jeans
In recent years, there was a growing concern about the health and environmental implications of bleaching jeans. Researchers have zeroed in on Potassium Permanganate used in sprays to offer denim pieces a worn-out, faded look. Workers who come in contact with the substance are believed to suffer from respiratory and skin problems.
Previously, sandblasting was the preferred way to bleach denim; however, this was ceased after a solid body of scientific research has supported its link to lung disease. Potassium Permanganate is currently used in most bleaching processes and applied to the fabric through spray guns. However, the chemical has also been deemed dangerous upon repeated and long-term exposure.
One way to help diminish this action is to decrease demand. If customers are not looking for bleached jeans, there is no longer a motivation to produce them. Therefore, as consumers, there is a simple thing we can do: and that is to stop buying bleached denim items.
8. Wash Wisely
A single standard domestic wash - revolving around 6kg - has the capacity of releasing 700,000 microfibers into nature. This can eventually end up in our waters, polluting marine life. Furthermore, most of the electricity usage attributed to a garment appears post-production, during washing. Try to lower your washing frequency or hand wash lighter items. What is more, if you are dealing with a food stain, consider spot cleaning it. As for freshening up garments, airing them out regularly should do the trick.
The goal here is to protect clothes from ending up in landfills. One way to do this - or at least postpone the end destination - is to donate garments. If you wish to part ways, help your outfits find a new home and wearer. However, make sure to run a quick quality check before you decide to gift an item. Make sure that it is still in good condition and wearable. Also, thoroughly wash everything you donate.
10. Inquire and Research
Stay curious and continue to ask questions about industries in general and the fast-fashion environmental impact in particular. By staying inquisitive you may discover deeper dimensions of harmful practices and new ways to decrease their negative effects. The fashion industry, like all others, is constantly changing, morphing into something new. Thus, information can become outdated and irrelevant. Try to stay up to date with current trends and practices to help endorse the positive ones.
We have all been witness to fast fashion’s environmental impact over the years. However, it is in our power to do something about it, if not completely stop it, at least slow it down. If enough of us adopt simple habits like buying less and reusing more, there will be noticeable effects on the grand scale of things.