The fashion industry is the second-largest polluting industry in the world. The rise of fast fashion over the last 20 years is responsible for its massive growth but also its very detrimental social and environmental impact.
It's time to slow down fast fashion. The overproduction and overconsumption of cheap clothing generate massive amounts of wastes, pollution, and greenhouse gases.
Slow fashion is an alternative to fast fashion where consumers, brands, retailers, and manufacturers take greater responsibility to do right by people and the environment.
Fast fashion is now a global phenomenon. It's faster, easier, and cheaper than ever before to buy new clothes. Very short development times and low production costs make cheap and trendy clothing accessible at scale.
But fast fashion creates catastrophic issues. It encourages consumers to buy more and consider clothes as disposable commodities. We have reached record high textile waste and clean water pollution by hazardous chemicals.
Textiles production including cotton farming consumes around 93 billion cubic meters of water annually, as reported by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Fast fashion isn't ethical or sustainable. Fashion businesses often produce more than they can sell. Seasonal sales and discounts try to get rid of massive inventories.
More than 16.9 million tons of used textile wastes are generated every year in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That number has doubled over the last 20 years.
The global apparel and footwear industry employs more than 300 million farmers and garment factory workers around the world, most of them in low-income countries, where labor is shockingly cheap.
Many fast fashion brands still use sweatshop labor to produce their clothes. They exploit employees in their supply chain with low wages and terrible working conditions.
Luckily, as consumers, we have the power to drive change in the fashion industry. We choose the clothes we buy and who we support with our money.
Here are some effective ways to slow down fast fashion.
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1. Talk about fast fashion
Talking about the fashion industry's issues and raising awareness are powerful methods to change how the industry functions today. Let's strike up conversations about sustainable fashion and make ourselves heard.
Let's ask the right questions and show that we care about #WhoMadeMyClothes to make a difference on a global level. Even small steps add up to solve the problems currently present in fashion.
To defend the Earth, animals, and human rights against fashion's abusive ways of producing and consuming clothes, we must talk about what's wrong with it and encourage large players to make changes.
Read up my article on why fast fashion is a bad thing to learn more about its destructive consequences.
2. Buy conscious fashion
Shopping from ethical fashion brands helps tremendously against fast fashion pollution. It minimizes the environmental impact of our wardrobe and supports brands that do their best to save the planet.
Price remains the biggest hurdle when it comes to buying sustainable and ethical fashion. But we must start somewhere to make green fashion more popular and accessible to more people.
We can invest in higher quality clothing as sustainable practice and give up fast fashion. Wearing our clothes longer not only helps our budget but also the planet. Let's choose clothes that don't go out of style easily and last a long time.
Check out my article on how long do you keep clothes for a few tips on how to avoid fast fashion, move away from the throwaway culture, and choose better alternatives.
3. Look for sustainable materials
Textile production is the most polluting part of fashion. It's best to search for sustainable fabrics with adequate certifications. They have the least environmental impact and ensure the preservation of biodiversity, animal welfare, and human health.
Some environmentally friendly fabrics are natural and bio-based such as cotton, linen, jute, or hemp. They are biodegradable and a relatively low carbon footprint.
Other synthetic materials use recycling to creates performance textiles from post-industrial and post-consumer waste such as polyester, nylon, or acrylic.
Semi-synthetic fabrics such as lyocell or bio-plastics are a new generation of hi-tech fibers made from renewable plant-based sources. They encourage the development of a regenerative and circular industry.
Read up my article on sustainable alternatives to recycled plastic to learn more about innovative materials used in fashion.
4. Purchase used clothing
Second-hand fashion is a great source of affordable and sustainable clothes. We can find unique and stylish pieces nobody is wearing at a local thrift store, resale shop, or online marketplace.
Buying vintage clothes is now a popular practice, excellent for our budget and planet. It reduces the need to produce new garments, limiting the impact of fashion on the environment.
Clothes swapping is an emerging and growing practice. It's a fun and environmentally friendly activity to organize over the weekend with friends and family.
Clothing rental is also a possibility to renew our wardrobe regularly without creating more waste. Many fashion companies now offer a subscription to rent clothes for special occasions.
Check out my article on how second-hand clothing is helping sustainable fashion to understand its advantages for the environment and local communities.
5. Discard old clothes responsibly
Textile waste is one of the major issues of fast fashion. The average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing every year. And many clothes are very difficult to recycle. Less than 1% of all clothing waste globally is recycled into new clothes.
Don't throw old clothes in the trash! Better ways to deal with unwanted clothes is to sell or donate them if they are in good condition, otherwise reuse, repurpose, recycle, or upcycle.
Learning to sew to create stylish and unique clothing pieces from old material is highly entertaining. No need for extra machinery to upcycle used garments right at home.
Follow my guide on how to keep clothing out of landfills for many creative ways to reduce textile waste.
6. Buy fewer clothes
The most sustainable garment is the one we already own. Buying fewer clothes is the best way to encourage more sustainability in the fashion industry.
It's fun to buy new clothes but we have to think first about the consequences of excessive consumption. Let's follow a more minimalist approach to fashion.
Minimalism doesn't mean boring. It favors a minimal and original look with a few simple and essential clothing pieces. Owning less is a good feeling. Sometimes, less is more.
Follow my ultimate guide to minimalist fashion to build a simple wardrobe that benefits your style, budget, and the planet.
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About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.