Sustainable Fashion & Consumer Culture

At first glance fashion and sustainability don’t seem to mix. Fashion is known to be quick and fast paced, whereas sustainability is slow moving and requires a great deal of understanding and care. In recent years consumers have become more aware of the impacts of fashion on the environment and started to see the repercussion of fashion waste. 

According to the Journal of Consumer Culture by Olga Gurova and Daria Morozova, ‘sustainable’ or ‘sustainability’ is defined as “balancing human activities vis-à-vis the natural environment for the purpose of reducing the harm on both human beings and the environment caused by these activities.”

The fashion industry is the second biggest polluting industry just after oil. In the U.S. alone, 16 million tons of used textile was is produced in 2014 and the number only seems to get bigger every year. 

A study by LIM College show that 60% of millennials are interested in certified sustainable clothing but only 37% say they have actually purchased them. 

So if people are aware of the problem why don’t we approach fashion more sustainably? 

Reasons why shoppers tend to not buy sustainability is a lack of availability, lack of clear marketing, transparency from brands and price. 

Price and style play a massive role in how consumers shop. With such a high demand for in trendy clothing at an affordable cost, fast fashion stores compete with each other to reach costumers first.  

Fashion heavily relies on labours which are often times not working in the best condition, not being paid a fair or decent wage and are often exploited in countries like China and India. 

For more or labour aspect of the industry I highly recommend the documentary ‘True Cost’ currently streaming on Netflix. 

In the fast fashion sector clothes are being made quicker and are getting cheaper. Online retailers such as Fashion Nova have reached new heights and are now considered to be ‘ultra-fast fashion’. These companies can push out new designs every couple of weeks if not days. 

Fashion doesn’t just impact people on a social level but on and environmental level as well. 

According to the Pulse of Fashion Report, in 2015 alone the fashion industry was responsible to 1,715 million tonnes of C02 emission and is only projected to grow. 

The planets waters are also at stake. The most common fabric used in clothing is polyester. The problem with polyester although an affordable fabric is not biodegradable. When polyester clothing is washed through washing machines, they shed microfibers that can easily pass through sewage and water treatments system and threaten aquatic life. 

So fellow fashionistas and lovers of fashion, how can we do better? Please know that not one person can change the world and the problem isn’t going to fix itself overnight. It’s important to stay informed and make efforts in our lives wherever we can.  

The Green Strategy has come up seven ways for consumers can start making small changes in their spending habits to be more sustainable. 

“Sustainability asked us to be consider really deep questions about our personal relationship to nature and the ethics of our actions.” – Clara Vuletich. It’s important to stay informed and make efforts in our lives wherever we can. It’s going to be a slow process but we have to start somewhere.

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