Compared to 15 years ago, the average person purchases 60% more clothing and only keeps it for half as long. The processes used to mass produce this cheap clothing excess are harmful to humans and the environment.
I am certainly guilty of having enjoyed fast fashion. My closet is full of trendy clothing that I have worn once or twice and no longer adore. I used to have a drawer bursting with snagged sweaters, stained blouses, and ripped leggings—the result of garments poorly made and my prior attitude of carelessness. Overwhelmed with the status of my wardrobe, I decided it was time that my clothing choices reflected my values and beliefs. This choice also coincided with me deciding to temporarily close my small t-shirt business, as I could no longer justify printing on clothing from questionable sources.
There are a few reasons why I’m saying “no thank you” to fast fashion for my family:
The Environmental Impact
Polyester, a synthetic fiber, is found in over half of all clothing made. Each time polyester clothes are cleaned in the washing machine, plastic microfibers are released and washed down the drain. As you know, these microplastics end up in the most unfortunate of places—including our own bodies after we ingest them in seafood or sea salt.
Choosing cotton isn’t necessarily the most eco-friendly solution either as it requires a significant amount of water to grow. It is also likely sprayed with polluting pesticides (such as glyphosate). Organic cotton seems to be a better choice for avoiding pesticides and GMOs, as well as for conserving water (80% of all organic cotton is rain-fed).
The Human Impact
When we choose organic foods and cotton we are “voting” for reduced pesticide exposure for ourselves and those who are growing the very crops we are so reliant on. We are also taking a stand against human rights violations, such as child labor, in the cotton industry.
Garment workers all over the world face harsh treatment in the form of sexual harassment, poor working conditions, denied breaks, and forced overtime hours. I certainly have not forgotten about the 2013 tragic factory collapse in Bangladesh.
The Business Impact
If more of us join forces to support small businesses making ethical choices, eventually larger brands will take a financial hit. Once they do, perhaps business practices will change. I remain hopeful.
I’ve thought through why we are making a change and now I am navigating the how. So far, my strategy has been:
1- evaluating the actual need for clothes to dress my family and myself
2- investing in quality, more eco-friendly options when I do buy
3- caring for my clothing with love by hand washing and air drying more often
I have started to save money for and truly reflect on the clothing choices that I make. The clothing is undoubtedly more expensive, but it seems I am breaking even by avoiding cheaper impulse fashion buys.
Most of my recent clothing purchases are from small businesses that sew and dye their own garments, or those that upcycle clothing (mostly for my sons). Through social media and internet searches, I was easily able to find many brands that I am happy to support. Overall, I feel my vibration and energy to be much higher when wearing clothes that I know the origin of too.
I am also enjoying shopping for previously-loved clothing second hand and have had a few sewing savvy friends patch up some of my boys well-loved pants.
My family and I are by no means perfect in our decisions, but we have started to make an effort. Our purchasing habits are just one ripple in the pond, but my hope is that combined with other imperfect efforts, we will make a big wave of difference.