With the growing awareness and scientific evidence of climate change, we can ignore the call to arms no longer.
We HAVE to change our lifestyles and consumption habits, or the next generations will have to pay the price. Our attention turns to one of the biggest polluters on the planet – the fashion industry. This is why you should go slow fashion.
The Problem With Fast Fashion
Despite the growing awareness of climate change, the fast fashion industry continues to grow, posting a 6% growth in 2020, ranking second after animal agriculture in water consumption, draining about 20% of water resources worldwide.
The primary material used in the fashion industry, cotton, is one of the biggest contributors. Using 1,800 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans, and 713 liters for a t-shirt!
Not only is cotton one of the significant contributors to global warming, it is also one of the biggest polluters of the environment. The vast number of chemicals used in cotton farming and production accounts for more than 16% of insecticide use, and 6% of pesticide use, more than any major crop.
These chemicals leak into waterways and continue to pollute the surrounding environment, causing severe illness to the local communities around farming regions, often in developing countries with no means to protect themselves.
Recently, the World Health Organisation recently released a study linking approximately 20,000 individuals to congenital disabilities, miscarriages, and cancer, as a result of living in cotton farms.
In addition, a study by BMC Public Health found that up to 66% of workers in cotton farms displayed symptoms like headaches, coughs, flu, fevers, and eye irritation during the cotton-picking season.
This isn’t okay.
For the icing on the cake, the textile industry is notorious for human rights violations.
93% of textile manufacturers were found not to be paying a fair wage to their workers, often subjecting them to long hours and unsafe working conditions in developing countries with little to no labor laws.
You know the worst part? After all the sacrifices we make to produce this cotton, 85% of textiles, equalling 21 million tons end up in landfills. The tremendous amount of waste is incredible, and our planet, and our less fortunate, are paying the price, all just so the trendy can keep up with the Joneses and sport the latest fashion.
The Answer? Slow Fashion
Slow fashion is a movement that began in the early 2000s as a response to the negative impacts of fast fashion, advocating a more sustainable, ethical, and environmentally friendly approach to fashion.
What is Slow Fashion?
Broadly speaking, companies and individuals that advocate slow fashion share a few key characteristics.
- Clothes are made from sustainable materials
Slow fashion avoids the use of textiles with a high carbon footprint and ethical costs, such as cotton, nylon, polyester, fur, and some wool. Instead, ecologically sustainable fabrics such as bamboo, hemp, organic cotton, linen, Tencel, and various food-based leather are used.
Bamboo and hemp are hardy, fast-growing plants that require little to no pesticides to grow. Tencel is made from the wood pulp of trees, most commonly eucalyptus trees, and food-based leather is fast gaining traction.
Food-based leather can be made from waste from the food industry that would otherwise be destroyed or composted. Fruits like pineapple and apple are collected and made into vegan, eco-friendly material as a kinder alternative to traditional leather.
Keep in mind that not only the fabric should be biodegradable, but the dyes should also be too.
- Higher quality
Slow fashion companies have smaller manufacturing processes that produce fewer pieces of high-quality clothing, prolonging the lifespan of the products and contributing to less waste.
Their products might cost more than fast fashion companies that mass-produce theirs, but will last longer and save you money in the long run while cutting back on landfill space.
- Manufactured in accordance with fair trade practices
Slow fashion companies wouldn’t be caught dead using sweatshops or paying their workers unfairly. Exploitation would never cross the mind of an ethical business.
- Timeless designs
Slow fashion products aren’t designed to suit the latest trend or craze. Instead, they are manufactured to provide timeless elegance and style to their customers, allowing their products to be used over long periods and still retain their aesthetic appeal.
After all, the little black dress will never go out of style, will it?
Benefits of Slow Fashion
Without a doubt, slow fashion is the way forward. Don’t take our word for it, let’s see why.
✅ Reduced Consumption – Mindful purchasing means customers are more selective about what they buy, choosing to buy long-lasting products, contributing to less waste, and even saving money in the long run!
✅ More Sustainable Materials – The materials used are biodegradable and products can be composted at the end of their long, happy life. The materials used can be natural and organic materials, or recycled and upcycled fabrics that were otherwise destined for incinerators or landfills.
✅ Human Rights – The slow fashion industry advocates fair trade principles, pays fair wages, and is committed to providing healthy, happy, working environments. Exploitation is strictly a no-no, and several certification agencies will see that businesses adhere to that.
✅ Planet Over Profit – With a few exceptions, slow fashion businesses are not in it just to make a buck, but also to make a responsible buck. Of course, all businesses want to show a nice profit at the end of the day, but it is viewed as a secondary priority over being an ethical business. In stark contrast, fast fashion companies value their bottom line above all else, even moral ethics.
✅ Animal Welfare – The case for vegan clothing is on the rise, with fur and wool catapulting the abusive treatment of animals for the sake of the fashion industry. No longer are consumers willing to let animals go to bat for us, but demand that animals be treated right in the fashion industry.
✅ Growth in the local economy – Shop local! Not only will you be supporting your local economy, but chances also are, some of the products were manufactured locally or close by, saving on fossil fuels used for transportation.
How Can We, As Consumers, Help?
Before making your next clothing purchase, ask some hard questions. How were the workers who made these clothes treated? What kind of materials were used? How far did the clothes have to travel to get to you?
Retailers will do what we, their customers, want. After all, how many major fashion designers and retailers have already banned the use of controversial fur?
The more of us adopt the slow fashion mentality, the more retailers will start to shrink their operations and cater to the burgeoning demand, producing more ethically and environmentally friendly products.
So how do we help?
👍 Purchase only from sustainable businesses
Stay away from fast fashion companies which are typically the big retailers that continuously produce numerous product lines to meet the latest trend. By educating ourselves and only buying sustainably produced clothing, retailers will start to take notice and adapt their products and business practices accordingly.
Yes, sustainable brands tend to be pricier than the norm. However, you’ll save money in the long run because of the higher quality, their products will be more unique so you won’t look like the girl next door, and you’ll rest easy knowing that your purchasing decisions didn’t have a detrimental effect on the planet.
👍 Reduce, reuse, recycle
Fast fashion is the epitome of waste. How many pieces of clothing do some have in their wardrobes that sit unused for years? Or buy something, wear it a couple of times, and shove it to the back of the wardrobe in favor of something newer and shinier? By simply reducing your wardrobe, you’ll consume less and spend less.
At the end of the lifespan, products can also be repurposed. Old pillows can become storage, old towels become rags, or t-shirts can be recycled. By simply thinking about the waste you are generating and the ways you can repurpose that item, you might be able to not only keep it out of the landfill but also acquire something you otherwise might have bought!
Think about donating all unwanted clothing, and when you really do need to buy something, think about buying second-hand. Thrift stores are a goldmine! Someone’s unwanted piece of clothing can be your new favorite jacket or pair of jeans, and be able to be used for years and years before finally falling apart.
Why slow fashion – Conclusion
As it stands, we live in a world of overconsumption and over consumerism. However, this is rapidly changing as more of us take up arms to advocate kinder, more ethical choices.
By demanding environmentally-friendly products, businesses will start to take notice, and the balance will shift. Remember, if the demand fades, the supply will too!
We hope that the days of excessive consumerism will be behind us and we move forward together into a brighter future. Thanks for reading, and all the best in your journey to a more responsible lifestyle!