Climate change is a global crisis that will have devastating effects on our world unless we act quickly and as a global community. Corporations are the biggest contributors to the current crisis due to the fossil fuels they consume, the natural resources and landscapes they destroy and the carbon dioxide they release into the environment.
Governments will have to get involved and impose restrictions that force these massive polluters to change how they operate. With capitalism at the heart of the environmental disaster we are facing, however, it will require a massive societal change, especially in places such as Canada, the United States and Europe.
Fast fashion is one of the biggest corporate environmental polluters. Despite this, it is often ignored and left out of discussions of how consumers can reduce their environmental impact and live a more sustainable lifestyle. We know that we need to recycle, to use less electricity and to use public transportation, which are all important steps. Knowing how to ethically and sustainably buy clothing is less obvious.
Here are some of the top ways to become a sustainable fashion consumer.
Buying vintage clothing is the best way to be a sustainable fashion consumer. The clothing has already been produced, so there was no recent environmental impact associated with creating it. With apps like Vinted and Depop, it is easier than ever to find vintage clothing.
Also, buying from a local charity shop or independent consignment store is a great way to keep resources in your community – it directs funds towards local small business owners or charities. Any purchasing choice that you can make that doesn’t support massive, exploitative retailers like Amazon and Walmart is a good choice.
Buy recycled fabrics
While going all natural initially sounds like the solution, it isn’t that easy. Cotton makes a wonderful natural fabric but it also is a water intensive crop that reduces freshwater reserves. Most clothing items are made from petroleum-based synthetics, which are not biodegradable. This is also not a great option.
It is now possible, however, to recycle other materials into textiles. The most common is recycled polyester – which is generally made from plastic bottles. The recycling process can actually be done multiple times before the fibres are no longer workable, so this is a system that can reduce the environmental impact continuously.
Buying from companies that use primarily recycled fabrics is also usually a good way to find a company that takes proactive steps to help the environment in other ways.
Buy higher quality items
Fast fashion has become the norm, especially for the younger generations. Clothing is seen as disposable, since it is only on trend for a very short period of time. Fast fashion retailers, including companies such as Forever 21, Shein and Primark, thrive on and encourage the constant purchase of new items.
Since these outfits are only expected to be worn a few times before the wearer moves on to the next big look, they are of very poor quality and very inexpensive. Quickly producing mass quantities of cheap clothing means that they are made from the worst materials, with little concern about the environmental impacts of production. There are also the human costs to consider, as companies that are only concerned with keeping costs low will typically have no issues with using child labour or running sweatshops.
Higher quality clothing will last longer, so you won’t have to replace items as often. If you take the time to find high quality pieces that you love, you can ensure that they come from companies that care about the environment and for their employees. Wearing pieces for years instead of weeks reduces consumption and decreases the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills.
The most obvious way to be a sustainable fashion consumer is simply to buy less. The less we consume and contribute to the capitalist system, the less of an environmental impact we will have. Even though this is a simple step, it can be very hard to implement.
Not only have we been conditioned to “keep up with the Joneses”, sometimes it is just nice to have new things. One way to get around this desire for the new is to learn how to alter your clothing. You can make changes to pieces you already own that will make them feel new or more on trend. Techniques like dyeing clothes a different color, adding embroidery or patches, or changing the length or the neckline aren’t difficult and can give an old item new life.