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The rise of sustainable fashion is a positive development that reflects a growing awareness of the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry. By choosing sustainable fashion, we can reduce our carbon footprint, support ethical and fair labour practices, and promote a healthier planet.

Sustainable fashion is not just a trend, it is a movement that is here to stay. As more consumers and fashion brands prioritize sustainability, we can create a more responsible and sustainable fashion industry that benefits us all. So let’s embrace sustainable fashion and make a positive impact on the world around us.


The Environmental Footprint of Fast Fashion

  • The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second.
  • Approximately 60% of all materials used by the fashion industry are made from plastic.
  • 500,000 tons of microfibers are released into the ocean each year from washing clothes — the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles The fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of humanity’s carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined If the fashion sector continues on its current trajectory, that share of the carbon budget could jump to 26% by 2050Some 93 billion cubic metres of water – enough to meet the needs of five million people – is used by the fashion industry annually, contributing significantly to water scarcity in some regions.
  • Around 20% of industrial wastewater pollution worldwide originates from the fashion industry.

Fast fashion also has a human cost:

Textile workers, primarily women in developing countries, are often paid derisory wages and forced to work long hours in appalling conditions in many places, these conditions create infringements on human rights. Use of chemicals in clothes production also raise serious health concerns, both for the workers in the industry and consumers. Additional impacts on health also arise from the pollution described previously.

The environmental and social cost of the fashion industry forces us to rethink fast fashion, and stresses the need for more sustainable business models and practices. Resources hereunder provide additional information on the environmental impacts of fashion, and potential pathways for change.

Launched at the fourth UN Environment Assembly, the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion is seeking to halt the environmentally and socially destructive practices of fashion. The Alliance is improving collaboration among UN agencies by analysing their efforts in making fashion sustainable, identifying solutions and gaps in their actions, and presenting these findings to governments to trigger policy. Additionally, the Forests for Fashion Initiative, led by UNECE, FAO, and partners, supports innovative solutions in fashion through sustainable forests-based materials. Several other international organizations are working on global efforts to foster more sustainable fashion.


How it can take a toll on mental health -

The negative impacts of fast fashion overconsumption have reached record levels. We have more clothes than ever before and we wear them half as much.

We are being seduced by the infinite cycle of trendy styles, enabled by the speed of changing content on platforms like TikTok. Low-rise jeans might be all the craze today, but they can be outshined in a matter of weeks by printed ones.

This overconsumption is led by fast fashion retailers’ low prices and capacity to quickly mimic those micro trends, enabling infinite choices, something we *think* makes us happy. But science shows that these infinite choices are actually bad for our mental health.

They paralyze us or leave us feeling dissatisfied no matter what we choose. By committing to buying less, buying higher quality sustainable fashion, and taking care of them, we not only honour people and the planet, but we can also improve our own happiness.


Fast fashion and textile waste -

Excessive textile production and consumption are not sustainable. Three out of every five fashion item ends up in a landfill, according to the Clean Clothes campaign. Today, clothes are seen as disposable and are often donated, where even then, they ultimately end up in a landfill or incinerated.

In Aja Barber’s book, Consumed, this is wonderfully explained by her and Liz, founder of the OR foundation: About 10-20% of what is donated actually gets sold, and what isn’t sold ends up in the Global South in places like Kongamato, Ghana or the Atacama desert in Chile. Kongamato, for example, receives as much as 15 million garments, much of which is not wearable because the balls that make up the donated bulk are made mostly of cheap fast fashion clothes.

This not only affects the people that sort and upcycle the clothing for very little money, but it also diminishes the local design and fashion industry, because the imported “white man’s clothes” are deemed more status worthy than local craftsmanship. This textile waste is one of the problems with fast fashion that is exported elsewhere.

Governments in countries like Ghana spend millions of dollars cleaning up their lands from this solid waste, and some have even ended up being ground that impoverished people have put shelter upon. The US alone is responsible for making 81 pounds of clothing waste per person per year, that ends up in places like Ghana.

Some retailers like H&M, Zara, and even SHEIN now are aiming to recycle or resale their clothes in an attempt to be more sustainable. However, they are really just turning the problem that they created into a new way for them to profit, and trying to sell it back to us. Meanwhile, fast fashion brands are not addressing the other issues that stem from the scale at which they produce.

Here is hoping to create a brighter, greener and sustainable way ahead by being mindful of the choices we make and understanding the deadly hazards that you could be tempted to buy!

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