With the weather warming up and the festival season just around the corner, it feels like there’s every reason to go out and spend a bomb on new festival outfits that will guarantee those three figure likes on Instagram! And, while it's lots of fun to go out and spend a small fortune on new festival fashion trends, clothing comes at a cost which is not just financial; but environmental too.
Recently, the fashion industry was named as the second biggest polluter in the world after oil. Most of us have reaped the benefits of cheap, fast-fashion being more readily available and with next day delivery on ASOS, but in the last few decades, the pressure to increase volume and variety of clothing available to us has lead to fashion brands neglecting the environmental consequences of their clothing production. Problems to do with waste/landfill, water pollution and the use of toxic chemicals have hit all-time high and now our planet is in a state of crisis.
Cotton is one of the most widely used fashion materials, from your fresh, new streetwear to band merch tees and in the production of fast-fashion, there is an alarmingly high demand for its products and cotton cultivation has devastating effects on the environment. This demand has driven cotton farmers into buying genetically modified cotton seed in order to keep up, which in turn can ruin their land and push the farmers into debt. Due to this circumstance, cotton farmland is prone to ecological disaster and often ends up spreading disease into food crops, which is then consumed by locals.
The waste from toxic chemicals, used to dye cotton and denim, is running into water that was once a valuable source for communities in Indonesia, China and Kazakhstan. Locals are putting their health at risk by bathing, washing and drinking from these water sources, and in some areas, the stream has dried up completely as a consequence. Numerous countries have seen devastating effects, including serious birth defects in the children of some Indian cotton farmers.
This may seem like a lot to take in when considering the impact of your own wardrobe and how you may have contributed individually, but the fact is, most of us are unaware of these consequences. Big brands produce unethically to maximise profit and aren’t upfront about the harsh reality of what goes on behind the scenes to protect their brand image.
So, how can we prevent this?
There is no clear cut route to stopping these things from happening altogether. Where there was a drive to increase fashion production, we can also be a drive to decrease it ourselves. There are various ways we can start to consume fashion in a more ethical way, starting with sustainable clothing.
Shop smarter, prioritised purchasing preloved, vintage and upcycled, rather than cheap and disposable and pay attention to what your favourite clothing brands are doing for a sustainable fashion community.
I will be exploring more ways to fight fast fashion in my next few posts, so stay tuned for more. But for now, enjoy the sun and remember to shop sustainably!