photo by @jesswithless
Written by Lauren Murphy, the voice behind the Instagram @theslowstylist where she sells her curated selection of second-hand clothing while educating and advocating for the slowing down of fashion consumption.
If you haven’t already heard the news, the fashion industry is the second largest contributor to pollution in the world. Fast Fashion in particular is the biggest culprit of this issue as the production, manufacturing, and consumer habits are putting a major strain on our earth and its resources. The cheap prices, and never-ending supply of trends has led people to believe that what we wear is meant to be disposed of and replaced with next seasons trends. It’s hard not to fall into this trap we have all been there, I mean, the clothes are designed to become unfashionable and fall apart. But this idea of, “throw away culture” has become so normalized millions of tons of clothing are ending up in landfills because of it. Those who are aware of the severity of these environmental impacts are scrambling to find alternatives that don’t put the earth or their personal style at risk. Continue reading for a simple guide to changing your consumer habits and shopping fashion sustainably.
CHANGE YOUR MINDSET
Before taking initiative in your own life to shop with the earth in mind it’s important to change your mindset as a consumer by simply shopping less and buying only what you love and need. We are told through Instagram and marketing campaigns that we constantly need to buy more to stay on trend, but this way of life is harming our environment and other people. When thinking about purchasing an item ask yourself “Do I really need this?” “How much will I wear it?” “Does it make me feel amazing?”. Making the conscious decision to ask yourself these questions will help filter out some of the items you might not actually want or need. In reality women only wear 20% of their closet. Imagine taking the money that was wasted on the other 80% and spending it on something you actually love. It’s up to us as consumers to play our part, let our conscious fashion decisions be heard and slow down the overconsumption of clothing.
The most sustainable act you can do is wearing what you already have but the second to that is shopping second-hand. According to The Sustainable Fashion Forum, 10.5 million tons of clothing is sent to landfill each year and by 2030 that number is expected to rise to 102 million. By shopping second-hand, you are reducing this waste and prolonging the life of the clothing. Not only is it affordable but most thrift stores are charitable or locally owned, meaning the dollars you spend is circulating back into your community. Fashion is consumed and disposed of so quickly you’ll be surprised at what you might find there, sometimes new with tags. Thrift stores, vintage stores, and flea markets are all great alternatives to shopping fast fashion but tend to be overwhelming and time consuming. Shopping pre–loved clothing online has become popularized over the last few years on apps like Depop, Poshmark, and eBay and has taken away the chaos and intimidation of a traditional thrift store. Shopping second-hand is a great way to break into the world of sustainability without compromising on your style or budget.
AVOID SYNTHETIC FABRICS
Polyester, nylon, and rayon are all synthetically produced fabrics contributing to two-thirds of all textiles produced. These fabrics are made from crude oil, which is practically plastic, and can take up to 200 years to begin to biodegrade. When washed, synthetic fabrics can release up to 700,000 microplastic fibers into the ocean. Cotton, although natural has a relatively high environmental and social impact. This crop is incredibly water intensive requiring 2,700 liters of water or, the amount the average person drinks in 2 and a half years, and that’s just for one t-shirt. Instead, look for naturally-derived fabrics that aren’t so land and water intensive. Linen is an airy, breathable fabric made from the flax plant that can thrive on land not suitable for food production. Tencel, is also a sustainable fabric alternative made from dissolving wood fiber. Other fabrics to look out for are organic cotton, hemp, and recycled polyester as they do not eat up our natural resources or use any pesticides to produce.
photo by @theslowstylist
INVEST IN SUSTAINABLE BRANDS
Sustainable fashion has gotten a bad rep for being expensive, but the truth is, if done right can save you money in the long run. Upfront it will most likely cost more that’s why it’s important to invest in timeless pieces like jeans, t-shirts, and jackets that tend to stay in our closets the longest. They will stand the test of time and not fade out as fashion trends tend to do. Investing in one high quality sustainable straight leg jean, instead of 5 low quality fast fashion ones saves you money as these materials are meant to last longer, look better, and fit better. You are also more likely to take better care of your clothes and not dispose of them so quickly if you invested more of your money into it. Brands like Everlane, People Tree, Veja, and Organic Basics are great affordable options when looking to shop new. Looking to treat yourself? Check out Reformation and Mara Hoffman for some beautifully crafted sustainable pieces.
To some this may have just sounded incredibly intimidating, but it’s important to know there’s no one way to achieve sustainability. It’s a gradual learning process and will continue to grow and change as more awareness is brought to the issue. As consumers, we have the power in our pockets to demand change. Vote with your dollar, continue to educate yourself, and always use a reusable bag (the earth will thank you later).