As of 2018, the fashion industry’s carbon footprint is larger than all international travel, contributing to over 8% of the total global greenhouse gas emission and is “responsible for 20 percent of total water waste on a global level” according to a 2019 UN report.
“Fast-fashion” has contributed to this significant growth in the last 20 years. Fast fashion is a term used to describe the clothing industry’s business model of replicating recent trends, mass-producing them at a low cost, and bringing them to retail stores quickly, while demand is highest.
In an article by The Conversation, Anika Kozlowski, Assistant Professor of Fashion Design, Ethics and Sustainability, shares that clothing production has doubled from 2000 to 2014. In 2014 the average consumer bought 60% more clothing but kept the item for only half as long. According to estimated projections, clothing consumption is expected to rise by 63% in the next decade.
“We live in an era of hyper-consumption in the middle of a climate crisis,” Anika writes. “The fast-fashion business model itself is the very antithesis to sustainability.”
Many fast-fashion retailers claim they are sustainable, citing recycling efforts. However, less than 1% of all clothing produced globally is recycled, and recycling methods required for the volume of garments disposed of each year are usually more energy-intensive, further contributing to the climate change crisis. Instead, most discarded clothes end up in landfills, such as the massive fast-fashion clothing landfill in Chile’s Atacama desert.
These garments, most often made from synthetic materials and treated with chemicals, can take more than 200 years to biodegrade, all while releasing toxins into the air and water.
“To make a dent in the climate crisis, we have to cut emissions by more than 55 per cent in the next 10 years,” writes Anika on The Conversation. “The fashion industry must play an active role in changing how they operate, source, manufacture, distribute and approach the market.
It’s not as simple switching out current textiles or packaging for more sustainable versions. Solutions to sustainability must include cultural change.”
Further reading: Fast-Fashion books and resources
While the brunt of change rests on companies and corporations, individuals can help by changing their shopping habits, being aware of their clothing consumption, and shifting the culture that demands mass-produced and quickly discarded clothing.
Supporting small brands and companies is one way individuals can help to combat the effects of fast-fashion and begin to shift the culture that supports fast-fashion.
Small brands that are sustainability-focused often produce made-to-order items, so that they only make what is sold and do not overproduce. They also focus on creating high quality garments that are made to last for years instead of fashion “seasons”.
Another key way individuals can counter the fast-fashion culture is to thrift! Thrift shopping is good for the environment because it keeps clothes out of landfills, reduces carbon and chemical pollution caused by clothing production, and lowers water consumption.
Reselling gently used clothing ensures garments do not end up in landfills. There is often a stigma surrounding purchasing used clothing. However, many discarded items are often still in good condition but are disposed of because they are no longer “trendy” or are “out of season.”
Donating items to local thrift shops and consignment stores, or even selling your clothing online, is a great way to recycle your clothes in a sustainable way. And purchasing thrifted items is also cost-efficient for those shopping on a budget. You can find many top brands at significantly discounted prices and still in great condition.
Ready to get thrifting? Check out these Latina thrift stores.
3 Latina thrift stores to shop!
Fresa Thrift provides fun curated vintage for your body and home with their online store, personal shopping/styling, and in-person markets. Latina owned and operated by Anisa Gutierrez and based in North Texas, this shop offers a variety of unique items from colorful glassware and boho home decor to novelty sweaters, handbags, and more.
Shop their online store at fresathrift.com/
Founded by Sandra Mendoza, Debutante Clothing started as a vintage style blog which evolved into a vintage clothing boutique based in downtown Pomona, CA. Focusing on authentic vintage clothing, accessories, and decor from the 1920s to the 80s, Debutante Clothing is the antithesis to fast-fashion.
Shop unique vintage finds at debutanteclothing.com/
The Plus Bus
The Plus Bus was founded in 2015 by friends, Jen Wilder and Marcy Guevara-Prete after they found themselves drowning in clothes they didn’t know what to do with. They dreamed of creating a more inclusive fashion world and cultivating a space for plus size people who wanted to look and feel fabulous. Today, their Los Angeles-based boutique is a curated plus size fashion destination offering brand new, consignment, and gently used secondhand clothing and accessories.
Shop curated plus size garments at www.theplusbus.com/
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