Why I’m placing my bets on fast fashion in the climate-change race.
When I think of climate change, I think of planes, cars, cow farts and, admittedly, hotter summers. It wasn’t until watching a short episode of Hassan Minaj’s Patriot Act where I found out fast fashion is the dark horse when we speak about climate change. I’m sidestepping the elephant in the room (the small pay the kids and adults working in these factories receive) because it seems we cared about this for about a couple of years and then kind of just … accepted it?
In the age of Instagram influencers where people are literally paid to try on clothes and encourage others to buy them. Primark, H&M, New Look and Zara — Yes, Zara are all fast fashion brands. It’s affordable, fast and most of the time it looks good. It is hard to imagine the demand for fast fashion will ever die. These brands can design, produce and sell it on the shop floor all within two weeks. As a result, fast fashion always has something new, every week or two and you don’t have to break the bank to get it. The temptation is strong, particularly for those with a lower income, spending less on practically the same thing last seen on the catwalk seems like a deal.
But this life is a scam. Research has suggested fast fashion is made purposely so that they last for no more than 10 wearings. So, you have to come back to buy more and it doesn’t feel so bad because the shirt was only £4.99 not £70. No harm done and you get a fresh T to wear to that motive tonight. Except more than one person is doing it, leaving a waste pile at the end of the day.
But you donate your old clothes so that makes this irrelevant to you right?
Come back here my friend. We’re all in this together. Typically unwanted clothes at a charity shop are sold to a textiles relator and recycled (a very small percentage) or sold and sent overseas. The clothes don’t end up on the backs of poor African children who are eternally grateful for your hand me downs. It’s part of the second-hand garment trade — an actual business that produced at least £2.8bn in 2015. From the UK most of our non-trendy donated clothes end up in Poland or Sub-Saharan Africa where it is sold. This is great because that means there’s actually no textile waste. Well, no. We are constantly buying clothes like our life depends on it and then throwing or donating them. This piles up in the developing countries they’re shipped to and the unwanted poor-quality fast fashion items become landfill. There’s your waste.
Landfills in Sub-Saharan Africa then — That’s all? No. The fabrics that help fast fashion be fast aren’t too great either. Polyester is one of the most common fabrics used and it is made from fossil fuels (ding ding GCSE science kicking in there -hopefully). Even when we put it in the wash polyester sheds microfibres that add more plastic to the sea. And conventional cotton drinks water faster than a kid who’s been playing outside — one cotton t-shirt needs 2,700 Litres of water. The list goes on.
So basically, everything is bad and we should all walk around naked like the good old days.
I’m not saying wear a bedsheet for your remaining years on earth. Just buy less and buy what you will wear and keep that for longer, we’ve all had a few items that we’ve only worn once. Less of the one-night stands with clothes and more of the long-term committed healthy relationships. It’ll do our bank accounts and the environment a favour too.