Usually, people who are starting their "conscious" journey towards a more mindful daily consumption think about reducing meat consumption, turning off the lights when they leave a room or taking a bus instead of their car to work. That's because these change of habits have been advertised by governments and NGOs as "easy" steps to save the planet, achievable by anyone, even the most reluctant individuals.
However, despite recent documentaries and campaigns, little is still known by the general public about the impact of the fashion industry on the environment AND on garment workers (hello cognitive dissonance?!). Indeed, in the past 20 years, it has become so normal to have the latest trends in shops changing every two weeks for the price of an average meal at a restaurant that consumers have completely lost sight of what's needed to produce clothing, especially the amount of clothing necessary to feed the fast fashion system.
Here are a few facts about the fashion industry that I personally believe everybody should know :
- The fashion industry is the second most polluting in the world after the fossil fuel/energy industry
- Cotton is the crop that requires the most pesticide on earth
- It takes 2720 liters of water to make a tee shirt. That's how much we normally drink over a 3 year period
- In Bangladesh, garment workers earn `£44 a month - a quarter of a living wage
- Clothing consumption produces 1.5 tons of CO2 x household x year. The equivalent of driving 6000 cars
So, how can we turn this around and make more mindful decisions when it comes to buying clothes?
1 Value the clothes you already own
Might seem obvious but with the temptation to buy new fashionable items on a regular basis, it's sometimes easier to throw away a piece of clothing rather than take good care of it, mend it if its broken, missing a button or has a tear. Yet, it's just so rewarding to still be wearing that sweater you bought when you were 16 or that jeans that fit you so well when first tried it. Promise!
2 Buy less, choose well
Minimalism is definitely a key principle when it comes to becoming more eco-friendly/sustainable/ethical (delete as appropriate). Indeed, why buy something you don't actually need? (unless you're a fashion blogger, just kidding).
Hence the importance of carefully selecting your next purchase. I like to apply what I call the RCT method. Stands for research, compare, think twice and usually, once you've gone through those steps, you realize you didn't actually need that zebra printed dress that looked so good on the model.
Because of fast fashion, it has become increasingly difficult to find clothes that last. Did you know that on average, a fast fashion item begins to deteriorate after only 10 washes?
To ensure that a piece of clothing is high quality, beyond the usually good first impression, I like to ask myself "would my grand mother have bought it?". Yes, you know what I'm talking about. Ladies of a certain age always seem to be wearing tip top quality clothing that never has a hole or badly made hems. That's because not only do they fix those when they occur but they usually for high quality, even though that means paying a higher price.
4 Vintage love
One of my personal favorite. By buying vintage, you not only get a unique piece, you're definitely saving the planet. Indeed, that means that the energy, the chemicals, the raw materials and the labor that went into making that garment is split in as many times as it will be reused!
Moreover, you're helping keep it out of the trash flow which saves tons of methane every year.
5 Support Ethical Brands
If despite all of the above, you still havn't found what your heart if longing for and need to buy something new then eco-friendly/ethical/fair trade/etc brands are the way to go. While it may have been hard to find fashionable alternatives to big retailers in the past, the trend is truly booming these days and that means one thing : NO EXUSE! While it may take a bit of research, you can now buy jeans/dresses/basics/shoes, literally everything with a clean conscience and the conviction that you are not harming the planet or a garment worker anymore.
Just so you know, nobody's perfect. The journey to a conscious lifestyle is, indeed, a journey and if you still happen to throw away your clothes or give in to that really cool item sold at Zara, IT'S OK. Knowledge is the first step and every little efforts made afterward is progress!