Fast fashion is taking a toll on the environment. Our consumer habits can change that.

Francesca Lim
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The fast fashion industry contributes to an endless void of textile wastage and excessive pollution that we don’t need more of. We must hold this industry’s companies accountable, adjusting our own consumer habits to do so.

The mass production from fast fashion brands keeps cheap, disposable clothes readily available for consumers to keep up with ever-changing fashion trends. The pressures to follow these trends often sparks overbuying behaviours and, in turn, provides an incentive for these brands to overproduce, resulting in environmental damage.

Sustainable fashion, the implication that clothes are made in an environmentally-conscious way, is all the hype right now. Even though it creates awareness and encourages consumers to source out environmentally friendly clothing, we are brainwashed by the term. Sustainability has no clear definition, especially for the fast fashion brands claiming their clothing is eco-friendly without disclosing to what extent.

When fast fashion brands greenwash their products, it convinces us we are doing our part to fight the climate crisis. The clothing we believe is made with recycled material actually only re-uses less than one per cent of material to make new clothing. 

Brands marketing themselves as sustainable only use the term to their competitive advantage, bringing comfort and feel-good emotions to us. We need to keep in mind that their “sustainably” made product can be misleading.

We can’t rely on the simple promise of recycled clothing. The “material to material”  allows for old clothing to be directly recycled into new items but seems nearly ineffective given that the vast majority of donated clothing results in wastage.

From using three years of drinking water to produce a cotton shirt to producing 10 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and polluting waters in the dyeing processes, the manufacturing process does more harm to the environment than we realize. We must educate and expose ourselves to these deeper issues of fast fashion instead of singularly thinking about recycled material in a shirt.

Until these fast fashion companies fix their misleading marketing strategies and manufacturing processes, we can learn to satisfy our fashion addiction by reusing the clothing we already have. DIYs are a helpful and trendy way to recycle your clothes if or when you want to change your style or design.

Instead of pressuring society to keep up with trends and promoting “sustainability,” we must be more vocal about putting that pressure on the standards sustainable fashion should uphold. This would demand the transparency many brands lack.

 By being more conscious of our consumer habits we can help the environment, slowing down the overproduction these brands create and normalizing buying secondhand. In doing so, we can work toward a more sustainable future.

Francesca is a third-year film and media student and The Journal’s Assistant Videos Editor.

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