You’ve likely heard the terms before but what do they mean and how are they different? Here’s ethical fashion vs. fast fashion.
Fast fashion is…
Exactly that: fast. But getting the item to you at a super-low price is coming at a cost in another way. To the environment.
Fast fasion is designed to respond to what the demand is asking for and do so quickly to meet customer needs. Ahem, cha-ching for the cash registers at these stores, whether they’re brick and mortar or online.
But that speedy process might be coming at the sake of fabric waste as making best use of materials often takes more time and care. Unfortunately textile waste is a big issue
Shockingly, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that only about 15.2% of all textiles in 2017 were recycled (2.6 million tons) in that country. Furthermore, the rate specifically for textiles for clothes and footwear was only 13.6% for the US.
So, where does the rest go? A big amount goes into the landfill or incinerator, as per the EPA’s account that 3.2 million tons of textiles were combused in 2017 (about 8% of the total municipal solid waste).
Wait, you say, I take my clothes to the thrift store or pass onto a family friend. While that’s great, really, the garments will still eventually make it to the landfill. And then it’s hundreds, if not thousands, of years for the synthetic fibers of many fast fashion brands to degrade. Two common examples of synthetic fibers are nylon and polyester.
But don’t get me wrong, you’re still giving the garments a second life by passing on gently used items rather than throwing them away when they still have a lot of wear left in them.
I’m just thinking through the long run. Furthermore, incinerating clothes can also be bad for the environment as toxins from chemicals used to make many of those fast fashion garments release and pollute the air.
Ethical fashion, on the other hand –
Ethical fashion is…
Also known as sustainable design, it’s the better choice for those who care about our planet. While you might not think about the environment while you’re clothes shopping, well, it’s time to change that.
Think about how it was made, where, and what went into getting that garment to you, as well as what’ll happen to the item after you tire of wearing it.
Of course, it all starts with the clothing companies choices, but you too have the choice of whether you buy from ethical fashion vs fast fashion brands. So it all starts with truly understanding what it means for a garment to be sustainable.
It’s about more than just using bamboo-sourced materials, although that’s a great start. It’s also about the supply chain for that bamboo and the manufacturing process. For example, is a lot of fabric wasted on the production line?
Are the factories doing their best to minimize pollution? Then there’s the transport of the clothing, as well as marketing… There are a lot of stages that can incorporate eco-friendly practices (or not).
The goal of sustainable or ethical fashion is to minimize the impact on the environment of the product, from the start of its lifespan through to the end. By using natural resources, such as water and energy, efficiently at every stage, as well as maximizing the repair and recycling of each item, fashion can be a greener industry.
5 ways to help reduce fashion waste
As I’ve said, fashion companies themselves need to start to incorporate sustainable practices across the entire life cycle of the clothing they produce. But also you can help to reduce the waste issue related to clothes. Here are 5 ways to do your part:
- Stop buying what’s on-trend and instead opt for classic pieces that won’t go out of style. You’ll get a lot of use out of them and they’ll stay in the closet rather than being tossed out.
- Buy from consignment stores rather than buying new to give a second life to garments
- Choose brands that are embracing sustainable practices; Ana Luisa, for example, uses 100% recycled gold for its fine jewelry to help the environment without sacrificing quality
- Purchase less. Do you really need that new top?
- Rent clothes rather than buying new pieces as part of your efforts to go green
Ethical fashion vs. fast fashion: Over to you
Do you think about the planet when buying clothes? Will you do so after reading the info above?