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Sustainable Style Isn’t Just a Trend — It’s What Our Planet Needs

Fast fashion is all around us. I wear it. My friends wear it. You probably wear it. And that’s okay (kind of). If you’re one of the few who only wears sustainable ‘fits pause from reading this and give yourself a pat on the back. Seriously, that’s an impressive feat and something to be proud of! But let’s stop for a minute and discuss — what really is fast fashion?

Merriam-Webster defines it as a way for companies to quickly supply the latest fashion trends to consumers. Providing stylish clothing at an affordable price is ambitious and highly valued in today’s society. Believe me, I’m all about the deals — but the problem lies within how the clothing is made and discarded.



The amount of clothing produced each year equates to 1️⃣4️⃣ items of clothing for every person on earth! ?

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Before my favorite crop top hit mass retailer shelves, it took a lot of energy and water for it to get there. For me, not seeing the production of fast fashion really puts it out of sight and out of mind, which is exactly why it’s important that I educate myself on the topic. According to a 2016 McKinsey & Company article, making about 2.2 pounds of fabric generates an average of about 50.7 pounds of greenhouse gases. 

Sometimes I think about how many clothes I’ve thrown away in my life. I can’t even begin to think of a number because it’s too high to remember. Then I realize I am only one person in a world of over seven billion. I know I’m not the only one tossing out my pieces. According to a 2016 Vox Magazine article, “Seventy pounds is the average amount of clothing and textile each person in the U.S. throws away annually. Up to 95 percent of the textiles could be recycled each year.”

The tossed garments usually go to landfills and end up looking like this:



What is your carbon footprint? How much do you use, waste or recycle? Over 5 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide. That number seems high but the average bag is only used for 12 minutes. We buy, we use, we throw it away and then go and do the exact same thing the next day. While its use is short, its impact is forever. In 700 years the plastic will start to break down, however it does not decompose it biodegrade but rather photodegrade and remain a toxic substance to the earth. That is just plastic bags alone… In light of the new series #ourplanet most will watch it and pass comment on how bad the world is getting, speak to it about friends, not use a straw for one or two days and then forget about it. The world doesn’t need a short term initiative, it needs permanent change. Don’t use and if you do use make a concerted effort to reuse and recycle. If we can double out plastic usage in 50 years we sure as hell can reduce it in 10. . . . . #ourplanet #earth #plastic #nike #airmax #landfill #waste #pollution #change #climatechange #climate #natgeoyourshot #natgeo100contest #natgeowild #natgeo #lonelyplanet #terra @natgeo @natgeowild @natgeofineart @natgeoyourshot @bbc @bbcearth @netflix

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Besides being unsightly clothing in landfills poses a bigger issue. Clothes can’t just disintegrate. According to a 2014 article on the HuffPost, “Most of our clothing today is made with synthetic, petroleum-based fibers, it will take decades for these garments to decompose.” A lot of my childhood go-to pieces (gauchos and oversized sweatpants) are probably still rotting away.

With Instagram, we are constantly being exposed to the latest trends and it feels like you just can’t keep up anymore. We are all together in feeling this way. The truth is we probably feel out of trend because we actually are. This quote from the HuffPost article explains how we got here:

“There (used to be) two fashion seasons: Spring/ Summer and Fall/Winter. Fast forward to 2014 and the fashion industry is churning out 52 ‘micro-seasons’ per year. With new trends coming out every week, the goal of fast fashion is for consumers to buy as many garments as possible, as quickly as possible.”



Learning about the negative impact fashion has on our environment, communities and world is often a complete shock and totally overwhelming. ??? It can be confusing to know where to start, what to do and how to change your life to reduce your fashion footprint. But don’t stress too hard. Just by deciding that you WANT to make a change you’ve already made the most important decision. ⁣ ⁣ Don’t worry about immediately going from 0 to ? on the sustainable fashion/lifestyle spectrum. Allow yourself to grow in your journey and make gradual changes over time that will become a part of your lifestyle long term rather than something you forced yourself to do and didn’t maintain. ⁣ ⁣ Allow yourself to be a beginner and celebrate where you are TODAY.✨?⚡️

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Now that I have all this information, I feel ready and energized to make a few changes in my life. For starters, I’m going to continue to educate myself on fast fashion and sustainable styles. I will view sustainable fashion as timeless rather than trendy. Instead of going straight to a big name retailer, I will try to shop more at thrift stores and online resellers (like Poshmark, Mercari, or Depop). Some of my love for shopping stems from wanting to have the same styles as everyone I see on my Insta feed and IRL. I plan to fall in love with my own style more each and every day and stop comparing it to others.

Making a change to a completely sustainable lifestyle isn’t easy, and definitely isn’t possible overnight. Us as consumers can only do so much — we can’t blame ourselves and ourselves only for letting the textile waste spiral into what it is now. Brands, companies, large corporations, senators, and other powerful figures must do their part in creating proper regulation and establishing a socially responsible standard that should be followed. On top of this, we have to remember that shopping sustainably isn’t always accessible to people of all races, classes, and sizes, which poses an entire extra barrier. It’s a collective effort that is needed to continue this push towards a more sustainable Earth. 

Rachel Keatley

U Mass Amherst '19

Hello! I am Rachel Keatley a senior communications and journalism double major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I write about all things style and will keep you up-to-date with the latest trends!