If you are in your late 30s or mid-40s like I am, you’ll hopefully be around for another 40 years. And after that, the world will keep on turning. But how will our choices today affect our kids’ lives or the lives of our children’s children?
You, too, may worry about the world we’re leaving for our loved ones. And to be honest, we should be worried. The signs are everywhere that we, humans, are really hurting the Planet with our actions and habits.
HOW FAST FASHION POLLUTES
Since the last century’s Industrial Revolution, mass production and consumption in every modern society and culture became the new standard. We now have an unlimited number of choices in how we live meaningful, convenient, and modern lives.
But that comes at a price. Since the 1960s, we have produced too much, consumed too much, bought too much—everything has tripled. We’re using this beautiful Planet’s resources without giving it a second thought.
And while fashion may be my passion, unfortunately, its industry is a major contributor to pollution and harmful to the environment. I've always loved how fashion can express individuality and how the right clothes can boost your confidence. More importantly, fashion can transform lives, not just the ones we lead now but for generations to come. I'm happy to say that fashion's here to stay; it is universal across cultures and can even serve as a bridge between them, but I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge what is happening in the industry I love. The vast overproduction and distribution of clothing and garments contribute to different forms of environmental pollution, like water, air, and soil pollution. While the problem seems profound, if we change our habits and behaviors, we still have a good shot at solving it.
Some of the main contributing factors include the use of synthetic fibers and the agriculture pollution by livestock used to produce linens, wools, and leather for clothing. Also, the chemical dyes that are used to color all those fabrics are incredibly harmful. And let’s not forget the distribution of fashion by airplane, trucks, and ships.
People are consuming more, and they want it for lower prices. The companies producing these cheaper items are making huge profits and want to market these clothes as fast as possible. This created a trend called “Fast Fashion”. Fast fashion thrives on trend replication, rapid production, and low-quality materials to bring inexpensive styles to the public fast. Unfortunately, this results in harmful impacts on the environment, human well-being, and, in the end – our wallets as well...
“Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere is paying."
— LUCY SIEGLE
- Shipping of fast fashion produces 10% of Global Carbon Emissions – More than all private international flights and shipping combined.
- The equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned – every second!
- Fashion is the second-biggest consumer of water. On top of that, it releases half a million tons (!) of synthetic microfibers into the ocean annually.
Each year, tons of clothing are simply thrown away worldwide. These materials are full of pesticides, lead, bacteria, and countless other chemicals. Unfortunately, the material is unlikely to break down, so that they continue their life cycle, releasing toxic chemicals into the air.
Does this sound familiar? You love a sweater because it looks very trendy and cool in the store, so you come home, put it on, and after wearing it for a few hours, it doesn't feel good anymore. It itches, gives a burning feeling on your body, and/or makes you constantly sweat like you're suffocating. Well, now you know why. Our poor skin, one of the main organs on our body, has to constantly deal with all those chemicals and harmful materials.
Next to the direct damages to our Planet, the people who wear and make fast fashion are also in significant danger. Love bright colors? Some manufacturers use lead in the dying process of clothes and accessories. The problem is these products still contain dangerously high levels of lead that can cause infertility, heart attack, or severe skin problems.
A garment worker’s health is constantly being jeopardized through their long hours, lack of resources, exposure to harmful chemicals, and often physical abuse. The people who make fast fashion clothing have been confirmed to be underpaid, underfed, and pushed to their limits because there are often few other options.
In 2013 a Dhaka garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh. It was the deadliest garment-related accident in world history: Thousands of people died because of unsafe and harsh working conditions. At the time, this raised awareness of the impact of the inherently destructive nature of the fast fashion industry.
THE ANSWER IS SLOW FASHION
So, what can be done? What is the solution? The answer is “slow down” and adopt “Slow Fashion.” But what exactly is Slow Fashion?
“Slow Fashion is a reaction of awakened minds and souls; it’s a movement for a better life full of conscious choices.”
— EDA DUMOULIN – Planet Hugs
And so, I started Planet Hugs as a 100% supporter of Slow Fashion. We created this online web boutique platform to sell only products that are made humanely, benefit people, and are made responsibly.
I am teaching myself to purchase more consciously and invest in pieces I will use for a lifetime. Anybody can shop cheap, fast fashion. The challenge is to slow down, make wise choices, act ethically, and go for the sustainable option.
“Instead of chasing trends, slow fashion brands utilize enduring styles with layering options and create pieces that are classic and versatile.”
Slow fashion is about designing, producing, consuming, and living better. Slow fashion is not time based but quality based. Slow and fast are not the opposite of each other – there is no dualism, only a different approach wherein designers, buyers, retailers, and consumers are more aware of the impacts of products on workers, communities, and ecosystems … and, of course, consumers:-)
Slow fashion is about choice, information, cultural diversity, and identity. Yet, critically, it is also about balance. It requires a combination of rapid imaginative change and symbolic (fashion) expression as well as durability and long-term engaging, quality products. There are many psychological and physical benefits of slow fashion on human beings, which can easily be the subject of another article.
Are you interested in how to adopt slow fashion not only into your wardrobe but as a way of life?
Some easy steps to follow:
- Go through your closet and see what can still be used. There will be hidden gems that are hiding amongst the chaos of your wardrobe. Organizing your space could help you rediscover things you thought were lost.
- Try to adapt to a capsule closet. Each season you can live with 40-50 pieces of garments in your closet. If you have not used that cheap, fast fashion brand blouse last two years, you are not going to use it ever again. You might as well give it to someone else who might need it or use it.
- Invest in staple and quality items that you can use for a long time. Instead of buying three cheap, low-quality t-shirts that can only last three washes, buy one high-quality t-shirt from good cotton with a nice design. It’s hard to do on a budget but saving up to buy a coat or a pair of boots that will last you for three, four, or five years will save you much more money in the long run.
- Start visiting second-hand stores. You can give a used garment a new life.
- Learning to sew can also help to save your favorite clothes. You can easily repair or alter them so that they can continue giving you pleasure:-)
- When you are shopping, pay attention to what you are actually buying. Look at the tag, figure out what the garment is made from, and where it is produced. Do not hesitate to ask the store manager or brand representative questions regarding their sustainable actions. Try to feel the product and see if you can really make lots of combinations with that piece together with your other clothes home.
There is no quick fix, and it will take time to change our mentality and our buying behaviors. However, if we can wake up one person a day from their deep sleep and raise their awareness around their lifestyle choices, to choose quality over quantity, timeless over trendy, slow over fast – it will be a big win!
Let’s not forget; there is no Planet B! So, let’s take care of her!
Eda Dumoulin Akin