Shopping Sustainably - What It Means and Why You Should
Updated: Nov 10, 2019
By Emilia Muga
The trends for this fall season are set—animal print is in, mixing patterns is allowed, and bright colors are a necessity. The maximalist inside of you is rejoicing, and the minimalist inside of you is wondering, “what do I do with all of my grey sweaters?” You visit DePop, Poshmark, and your local consignment store, but no one is willing to purchase your old clothes for the price you deserve. You’re frustrated, and end up taking the bags of clothes that have been sitting in the corner of your room for weeks to a donation bin. At last, a blank canvas - and everyone knows what an empty closet means: room for more!
This idea that we need to downsize our closet every year, even every season, and purchase more clothes is a result of the fast fashion trend in the consumer market. Since the 1990s, companies like Zara, H&M, and Forever21 have been mass producing the latest runway trends at an affordable price. This was an exciting accomplishment for the fashion industry since consumers were purchasing more clothes than ever before, changing mentalities towards shopping and making runways more accessible to the everyday person. There is an attitude by many, especially in the fashion industry, that in order to be stylish, you have to keep up with trends, meaning monthly trips to your local Zara, forgoing originality and personal taste.
But what actually makes these fast fashion trends more affordable than the runway designs? The fabric. In a 2019 New York Times article by Dana Thomas entitled “How Fashion is Destroying the Planet,“ she found that 60% of fabrics are not made from organic fibers. These synthetics pose a threat to our environment since they are made from fossil fuels and other chemicals. Examples of synthetic fabrics include rayon, nylon, and spandex. Unlike organic fabrics like cotton, silk, and wool, when synthetic fabrics end up in our landfills, they will not decay. Perhaps the most shocking statistic is that 85% of textile waste in the United States ends up in our landfills—only 15% is recycled. This is an environmentally unsustainable practice.
As a frequent shopper, it is hard to imagine a world where clothing is only made from organic fabrics. A world where the average price for a crop top is $45 rather than $20, but this is a direction the fashion industry is moving toward. Zara, a leader in fast fashion, recently announced that by 2025 their stores will only sell products made from sustainable and recycled organic fabrics. H&M is also working towards more sustainable collections. They recently released their “Conscious” clothing line, in which items marked with a green tag in-store or online is at least 50% sustainable.
As the fashion industry shifts from fast fashion to sustainable fashion, here is what you can do to be a more conscious consumer:
First, look at the tag before you purchase a clothing item. If the fabrics read more than 50% rayon, nylon, or any other synthetic fabric, reconsider your purchase.
Second, gravitate towards fabrics that feel strong and sturdy. Fabrics that are see-through and thin will not last long and are subject to tears, which limits the life of the piece.
Third, take care of your clothing and follow the washing instructions. This will save you money in the long-term and keep your clothes in good condition.
Finally, recycle your clothes. You can do this by donating to a charity, swapping with your friends, or simply reusing the fabric from your old clothes for a new project.