Anna Schultz-Girl Looking Through Closet

Balancing Sustainability and Fashion: Dressing for the Planet

I’ll be the first to say it: I love SHEIN as much as the next gal. Trendy clothes almost all under twenty bucks? Initially, it sounds like a steal. Quite literally, it is. SHEIN, Forever 21, Zara, H&M, and many others are all known as fast fashion brands. They mass produce their clothing, copying it after the trends they see at the different seasons’ fashion shows and even flat out stealing designs. Zara, SHEIN, Forever 21 and H&M have all been accused of stealing designs from small businesses and luxury designers alike.

Fast fashion, a model for mass-producing clothing for extremely low prices, has grown exponentially in recent times. Now, you might be thinking, “Hey! I love cheap clothes, what’s the issue?” Though fast fashion makes the most popular styles more available to women with a smaller budget, the way the clothes are produced is not sustainable AT ALL. The fast fashion industry produces 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year. I’m not kidding. In addition to that, they consume the second-highest amount of the world’s water supply and release microplastics into the ocean. Yuck.

If you need one more reason to ditch fast fashion, here’s another: the reason why your cute top is only $5 is because the worker who made it is likely exploited, severely underpaid, and could even be a child. Since the clothes are cheaply made, you’ll get less wear out of them. So even though you bought a shirt for only $5, it will likely shrink or rip after a couple of wears. You’ll ultimately end up buying more clothing to replace it. This ends up costing you more money, and even more old clothing ends up in the landfill. sustainable fashion support Photo by Cherie Birkner from Unsplash

So, how can we change? One of the most important things we can do is try to be less wasteful. If you have clothes you don’t want anymore, donate or sell them! Opening a Depop or Poshmark account to sell your old clothing will get you some extra cash in your pocket and will make your trash another person’s treasure. If an item doesn’t sell, donate it to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army.

In addition to selling your secondhand things, buy secondhand, too. There are SO many places to thrift from, including websites such as ThredUp, to local shops like Plato’s Closet or the reliable Goodwill. I guarantee you’ll find clothes that'll spice up your wardrobe. You can even do some clothing trades with your gal pals!

If you absolutely need that new shirt you saw online, look into the business you’re buying from. If what you want is a little bit pricier, it could be because it's sustainably made and the person who made it earned a fair wage. A sustainable brand I absolutely love for my athleisure wear is Athleta. Athleta is a certified B-corporation, meaning they're legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers and the environment. Almost 80% of their clothes are made from sustainable fibers, and a quarter of them are made with techniques to save water. If that’s not enough, their leggings last for YEARS! 

It’s time to ditch fast fashion. Support your local businesses and B-corps, trade clothes with your friends, and thrift your little heart away. Sustainable fashion is in reach, and it’s calling your name.