In the fashion world, the term sustainability has become increasingly common in recent years as the industry’s newest trend. Simultaneously, the world of fast fashion is booming and trends are on a faster cycle than ever before. To the average student or young adult, fast fashion brands are extremely appealing. They allow them to buy more items for less money and keep up with the quickly changing trends. Unfortunately, this low cost comes at a tremendous detriment to the environment; the fashion industry ranks as the second largest pollutant of all industries. In order to reduce the impact of the fashion industry overall, there are many aspects to consider which can be adapted through two perspectives: the consumers and the brands. Although sustainable adaptations within the biggest most beloved brands will have the largest impact, there are many simple changes that can be done by individuals who enjoy fashion but wish to minimize their negative impact on the environment.
Contrary to popular belief, sustainable options do not always have to be more expensive. The most sustainable option when it comes to shopping is to buy second hand; this practice has been made easier through apps like Depop and Poshmark which offer lightly worn, on trend items for a fraction of the cost. Selling your own clothes on the apps provides a way to exchange items you no longer want for new ones and maintain a rotating closet in a sustainable way. It goes without saying that traditional thrift stores are a great resource for people who prefer shopping in person, and they also cut down on the environmental effects of shipping and the waste packaging.
Although the cost up front may be a little steeper than non-sustainable brands, the article of clothing will likely last years longer, cutting the cost of repurchasing. Thinking sustainably as a shopper means buying second hand when possible, less is more when new, and quality over quantity pays off in the long run.
In order to see drastic changes in the sustainability of the fashion industry, it is unrealistic for the responsibility to fall solely on consumers. The trendiness of the term sustainability can cause confusion among consumers in navigating the market; they may not be sure of a brand’s true intentions in their green promises. Some fast fashion brands such as H&M and Zara have deceptively marketed products as green using certain aesthetics to persuade consumers into thinking that they are more environmentally friendly than they are in reality. This is unfortunately not an uncommon way to attract low budget eco friendly consumers. Fortunately, there has been a shift for brands to take more responsibility and consideration of the negative impacts their production may have. Campaign efforts such as Patagonia’s “Don’t buy this” is a great example of a company taking responsibility with an unusual message emphasising the lifelong durability and value of their products to avoid frequent repurchasing.
New industry standards are beginning to emerge, which is promising. However, some companies are more committed to minimizing their impact than others. As consumers become more aware of environmental impacts and change their buying habits, more companies will begin to follow suit. As the fashion industry evolves it is important to remember that no sustainable choice is too small to make an impact!