We’re in a crisis. If you haven’t heard, our house is on fire and we’re less than 12 years away from not being able to reverse our mistakes. In that time, society needs to make huge shifts in how we work, live and consume to reduce CO2 emmisions by at least 50%.
That’s a big old number, I hear you say, seems like a pretty giant task, right? But with British women expected to spend 29.4 billion pounds in clothing this year, it’s a task we need to tackle head on. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. “Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the world’s polyester fiber, which is now the most commonly used fiber in our clothing. But it takes more than 200 years to decompose.” By making simple switches to the way you consume fashion, you can help save the planet whilst keeping more pound in your pocket, it’s a win win.
Eighty billion pieces of clothing are consumed globally every year as clothing production has doubled in the past 15 years, with garments on average being worn much less and discarded quicker than ever before. But where does it all go? To charity? Only 1 percent of clothing donated to all charities and take-back programs is recycled into new textile fabric. In fact, 84 percent of disposed clothing ends up being incinerated, which, as you would imagine, is terrible for our planet.
If you haven’t gathered by now, and honestly if you haven’t please climb out from underneath that rock, sustainability is pretty damn important to the welfare and survival to us as humans, the animals, the eco-system and the planet we call home.
However sustainability in many ways remains to be a perk for the privalidged. Brands are popping up left right and centre that have adopted a sustainable approach; using responsibly sourced fabrics, re-ducing their production sizes or creating fair ethical working conditions, in fact “Paying living wages to garment workers would add just one percent on average to the retail price of a piece of clothing.” It seems the term ‘sustainable’ remains in muddy water. Is it really sustainable to be making more stuff for people to consume? Still, what these sustainable brands have in common is the hefty price tag attached. It makes sense too…the sad truth is that making responsible clothing costs an arm and a leg and at the end of the day these brands are businesses that still want to make money and making the world greener in the process is a nice add on. Where sustainability was once a ‘nice to have’ has become an absolute necessity in futureproofing the human race, so the question remains, how do we democratise sustainable fashion so that it’s accessible to all. There’s three answers.
- Shift our mindsets to buy less and see ‘sustainable’ items as a keep-sake. Picture this, you see a piece of clothing that ticks all the boxes (looks dope, feels dope, quality is dope, oh and it’s responsibly sourced, made in an ethical way where workers are paid a fair living wage and from a brand that promotes a circular fashion cycle…you’ve really hit the jackpot), but wait, you’re eyes sting as you take a peek at the price tag, surely it cant be true?! Yes my friend, sadly the price does not decieve you. You’d normally spend about £50 or less on a jumper, sure you may only wear it a couple times then sell it online but that’s not the point, right? Well actually that is the point. Shift your mindset to invest in pieces for life, tailor your wardrobe to home quality items that you’ll get multipe wears out of, then suddenly that £150 price tag, worn 20 times over 20 years…suddenly it’s only 3p a wear.
2. Wait until it hits the mainstream. The truth is, not many people can actually afford that £150 jumper, no matter how sustainable it is, or how nice it looks. We’re on the brink of another recession with house prices rocketing, rent on the rise, the cloud of Brexit looming over our heads and wages still remaining the same. But things are changing, slowly and steadily brands are realising that in order to stay relevant and stay ahead, they need to re-adjust their current productions to meet a common goal in making the world a more sustainable place. Take Zara, for example, one of the most dominant fast fashion companies in the world, on the morning of July 4th, long before America had ignited a single firework in honor of Independence Day, Zara executives gathered to discuss the environmental impact of fashion — and what the company is committed to doing to improve the situation. The following were outlined as priorities; by 2023, ensuring the use of 100% sustainable cellulosic fibers for responsible viscose, the absolute eradication of single-use plastics, and complete adoption of green-only packaging. And before the end of 2025, collections created out of 100% sustainable cottons and linens and 100% recycled polyester, as well as zero landfill waste from its facilities, and achieving 80% renewable energy use for its HQ, distribution centers, and stores. That’s big news, so there’s hope on the horizon for us all with a little less money in our pocket (or just better priorities on what to spend it on).
3. Buy second hand. It’s as simple as that. The problem with the fashion industry is how much we consume and how much is made to meet that demand. “250,000 Indian cotton farmers have killed themselves in the last 15 years due to the stress of debt they accumulated through buying genetically modified cotton seeds to keep up with demand.” If we cut the snake of at the head, i.e stop buying from fast fashion retailers directly and put our focus into recycling, swapping and sharing our clothing, we’d soon realise that we’re still getting our hit of ‘new stuff’ whilst also making the industry more circular and in most cases, saving money (which is what this article is all about, well done for sticking through it, I had to rope you in somehow didn’t I).
Shopping second hand is one of the best ways to save money and still be able to shop guilt-free. Most of my outfits are second-hand and have not cost me more than £50. Once you get into the habit of shopping second hand, you start to lose interest in fast fashion. Think about this, if you buy second hand at a good price then if you want, sell it to buy more second hand items, you’ve got your own circular loop there, job well done!
You may be wondering if there’s enough second hand clothing to go around for us all. The straight up answer is yes. There’s more discarded clothing circulating in the world than we know what to do with. Where can you find it? Hold tight, I’ll tell you…
- Charity Shops. Good old fashioned charity shops, sometimes a let down, sometimes a treasure trove. Bring your unwanted clothes and donate them to your chosen charity, saving the world, helping those in need and looking fly…can I get a yeehaw!
- Clothes Swaps. These bad boys are popping up all over the place, type into facebook, eventbrite or google: clothes swaps and you will get loads of answers. The gist of it is: bring (usually) up to 5 items you no longer want, exchange it for credits, and shop other peoples clothes that they’ve brought. It doesn’t even need to be an event, make one with your friends and borrow each others clothes.
- Rental Platforms. Going to a wedding and want a new dress but don’t want to buy a brand new one that you probabaly wont wear again? Fear not, head to fashion rental platforms where users rent out their nice clothes for you to borrow for the week. Check out Hurr Collective.
- Fancy Designer? There’s now specific websites you can head to to buy designer second hand that’s in great nick. If that’s your bread and butter, check out Vestiaire Collective.
- Ebay. Often a minefield but you can get some goodies on here for next to nothing. Trick of the trade: type in a brand you usually shop at, have a scroll or edit the filters to match what’s ending soon at a low price then put a bid in of the maximum amount you’d pay 10 seconds before it ends. If you win it, Wahey! If you don’t, at least you know you wouldn’t pay more. WARNING: can get addictive, only bid on items you really want.
- Depop. Think instagram meets eBay, it’s a millenial haven for second hand clothing. You can save items you like, post items you want to get rid of and haggle on prices for clothes you want to buy.
There’s lots more work to do to turn around the fashion industry, and if real change is going to be implemented, we have to start with our shopping habits. Maybe next time you’re in a shop looking at a dress you fancy, take an evening to think on it and look for second hand alternatives, you never know what you may find.