Arguably the principal issue facing society is climate change. Our environment is under threat with fast fashion and throw-away culture advancing the issue. One-use items are so commonplace nowadays. People’s go to when buying items are from the big brands; whose carbon footprints are jaw dropping. The fashion industry accounts for a whopping 10% of carbon emissions each year (IPCC). The waste produced by the industry places it just second to oil on the worst polluters.
However, there are alternatives. Independent vintage sites and clothes are making a resurgence and seller sites like Depop are growing in popularity. Also, recycling clothes is one way to tackle the growing trend of throw away culture. Another way is for big sites to change their ways and become more sustainable. Whether this sustainability stems from using recycled material or offering ways to give back unwanted clothes. Ultimately though, there needs to be an individual focus on our own impact and changes we can make.
From trendy to trashy
Social media is a large influence for excess waste. There is a growing toxic mindset to want to be seen to have everything. Having new outfits for every new event has become a modern-day tendency. Influencers constantly post their new outfits on various social media sites. The trend of doing shopping haul videos is prominent and, though entertaining and popular, there needs to be a focus on the effect of them. It normalises buying inordinate amounts of clothing. This coupled with the offers from the big fashion sites for cheap clothing deepens this cultural issue.
There is no longer an emphasis on durability and quality but on quantity; to constantly have the newest trend. It lends itself to the staggering amounts of clothing ending up on landfill sites. As the old trends fade, the clothes go to the bin. According to a 2018 report by the Environmental Protection Agency Clothing and Footwear Waste Management over 9 million tons of clothing ended up on landfill sites.
Retail giants can help reduce throw-away culture
However, this is not always the case and shouldn’t be. Shops could accommodate a better system and a more environmentally friendly mindset. For example Levi’s offer a return on old or unwanted denim jeans for recycling or reimagining. They even offer an incentive of a discount on your next order. Other store can easily replicate this smart strategy.
To reduce a labels own waste and environmental impact should be a responsibility of the fashion industry. If stores offered a way to return clothes past the 30-day period, then the amount of clothes on landfill sites would reduce. In fact, for companies to make changes there needs to be legislation to enforce them to change. Considering the impact on the environment, legislation on controlling fast fashion and the waste produced should be created. Few companies will change by their own accord as it will cost to implement changes.
Out with the new and in with the old?
Another opportunity for reducing the amount of clothing in landfill is the use of vintage or second-hand sites. Some issues arise when using vintage sites. It is difficult to find items you are specifically looking for and even then, the sizes are limited. On the other hand, vintage sites do offer an individuality. There is an awareness that very few, if any, other of the same item being purchased exist.
It has also recently become trendier to buy and own ‘vintage’ clothes. Not only is it more sustainable but it also is often cheaper to thrift clothes; you get better quality for a smaller price tag. An article worth reading by Independent details some vintage sites to check out. Buying and selling old clothes means those clothes are not thrown out but recycled. Not only should buying second-hand become more commonplace but donating, up-cycling or selling your old clothes should become more prominent.
Be part of the solution
Considering the continuous fluctuations of fashion trends, it tends to the swathes of unwanted and disused clothing. As well as this, the current focus on image, with social media exacerbating throw-away culture, it is understandable why people are constantly buying new things. However, the ultimate question which should be asked is; do you care more about your planet or your image?
If statistics were more vastly published and wider spread, then a larger proportion of the population would understand the impact of their own buying habits and hopefully change their ways. Influencers should promote thrift shopping; large retail giants should change their ways but for now a reduction by even 1 person is still a reduction. The understanding of your own impact needs to be heightened. You can make a difference and perhaps influence others to make changes for the better too.