How to reduce the impact of fast fashion on the environment
Fashion and particularly fast fashion accounts for 10% of the global carbon emissions, which gives it a lot of room for improvement. Producing one item of clothing can produce from 2 kg (for a cotton shirt) up to 42 kg of carbon dioxide during its entire lifespan (for a pair of jeans). This carbon emissions can increase or decrease depending also upon the consumer behaviour. There are steps that companies can take to reduce the carbon emissions by buying fabrics, trimmings and producing close to the places they sell, by using less syntethic fibers, dyeing less or using natural tints, reducing the pace of fast fashion, recycling and using recycled fabrics etc.
Fast fashion came from the need of the consumer to have clothes similar to those from the catwalk as soon as possible in the stores. It was a need for cheap, disposable pieces of clothing that can be bought periodically and thrown away after being worn a few times. Consumers were also looking for ways to copy the style bloggers, vloggers, influencers, models etc without paying the same amount of money for that piece of clothing. In 2014 consumers bought 60% more clothes than in the year 2000, but only kept them for half as long. The consumer bought more clothes but focused on cheap items.
Consumers are starting to being more intersted in where the products are coming from and how they are made.In 2018 a third of consumers bought clothing once a month, down from 37% in 2016, and those who bought every 2 or 3 months rose from 64% to 67%. Cheap fashion has a social and an environmental cost. According to Mary Creagh, chair of the parliamentary environmental audit committee,“We are not saying to people on a low income you can’t buy cheap clothes. We are saying it is time that the cost should reflect the true cost of the minimum wage and decent working conditions and growing stuff without pesticides. It needs to be sustainable from top to bottom and we don’t think the true cost is a £5 dress. That price is not being paid by us, it is being paid by someone else and the environment.”
It is clear that everything needs to change from the consumer behaviour up to the way the whole textile industry is functioning. And since the market and companies react to consumer behaviour here are a few steps that costumers can follow to help decrease the carbon emissions:
- buy smart and buy less. If you do not wish to invest more money then you did in the last years, use the same budgt to buy only one or two pieces of clothing, not 5. Also check the qualitf of the fabric, seams etc to be sure that it will last you longer so you can wear it longer.
- do not wash your clothes too often. Only wash clothes when they are dirty. Do not wash them as often as you think. When you wash, make sure that the washing machine is full, use colder water, and green detergent. Try to avoid using tumble dryers and dry cleaning.
- buy clothes from companies that take into account the environmental and social impact of their production. It is still cheaper to buy in a fast fashion shop, but the more consumers will consider to buy from sustainable brands the lower the price will be for clothes made out of organic fabric, natural fibers, locally produced ones etc. Clothes from sustainable brands costs sometimes the same as brand-name clothes, but at the first you will pay for the quality and sustainability while at the second you will pay from the image (marketing) first.
- be sure that the item of clothing you wish to throw away cannot be repaired, donated or recycled. A lot of clothes can be repaired and do not need to be thrown away. They can also be donated or given away to friends. If you are sure that you need to throw it away look for a recyling point. There are also shops that accept old clothes and recycle them for you.
- try to shop online to reduce carbon footprint by not driving to the shop.
- do not shop impulsively and order only the products you really wish to wear. Sending clothes back also increases the carbon footprint.
Every small gesture counts and every small gesture can lead to change. Since the markets and companies can only react to the consumer, it is clear that the consumer has the power in his hands. So start doing today, what you wish to see tomorrow happening everywhere.