Fighting Fast Fashion: Consumers Must Stop Supporting Unsustainable Brands
by Olivia Bretzman ’22
Every second, about 20 tons of clothes-based waste is either dumped into a landfill or burned. Every day, college students buy fast-fashion styles online or in-store to keep up with the latest trends for their weekend or classroom looks. These are the clothes that end up in the landfill after they have been worn a few times and deemed “out of style.” That is a whole lot of waste.
The fast-fashion industry has swept the world by storm in its opportunity to purchase cheap, decent-quality, and trendy clothes at an extremely fast rate. The rates of purchasing average pieces of clothes has increased tremendously since the early 2000s to the present day. The need for clothes has become replaced with an irrepressible want that often exceeds the balance of need and want in one’s wardrobe.
Obviously, the fast-fashion industry has horrid environmental effects and implications for the future. The UN environment programme reports that “twenty percent of global wastewater and ten percent of global carbon emissions” are caused by the fashion industry. Thus, this sped-up, unnatural, wasteful process paired with the ignorance of the consumer creates a cycle of environmental destruction.
As college students, everyone purchases clothing as if it were our day job. Whatever one buys, regardless of identity, one can likely admit to purchasing from a fast-fashion business such as Zara, Nike, or H&M. This will undoubtedly continue as social media progresses, influencing its users as well as the fashion world itself.
While condemnation is not the correct approach to this issue, education and mindfulness can help preserve the integrity of the environment and mitigate the effects of a rather newly researched problem.
The consumer makes the fashion industry boom. Revenue is the ultimate goal. One way to avoid falling into this issue is to take a step back and look at what you already have as a consumer and only purchase what you really need.
Secondly, we must make mindful and sustainable decisions. The sustainable fashion industry has blossomed as of late. More brands than ever have begun initiatives to lessen waste in their production, use ethically sourced materials, or even build brands with completely recyclable styles.
Unfortunately, many of these sustainable brands and choices can be expensive. If you cannot afford them, try a thrift or consignment store. The task of rummaging through other people’s used clothes is so daunting and can be really unattractive; however, thrift stores are no longer the back of dad’s closet thrown into a paper bag and driven to the store. They are oftentimes highly curated and hold the same pieces fast-fashion stores do.
In terms of the clothes one already has, well, reuse them. Give them away, sell them, or repurpose them for a household chore. Obviously, some things need to be bought from the fast-fashion industry or they will end up in the trash or perhaps at a thrift store; however, the mindful decision-making process of what to do with one’s clothes is a tremendous start in the right direction.
In reality, many people do not see how this affects them. Perhaps the environment is “not your thing” or you believe you can do whatever you want with the money you earned. While this is true, it is extremely important to look at the facts and even the type of labor chain fast fashion supports. Perhaps taking a different viewpoint rather than an environmental-based one on the issue will strike a different chord.
Moreover, many people post about advocating for the environment and still feed into this fast-fashion scheme. Avoiding fast fashion is one of the most hands-on, feel-good decisions one can actually make that creates a direct difference for the industry. Keeping your profits in the sustainable-fashion realm will support the environment in more ways than we can even see now.
The future is sustainable fashion. Take hold of the trend!