How Is Your Fast Fashion Addiction Affecting the Planet?

At the beginning of this year, I made a resolution to myself to stop buying new clothes.

It's one resolution I have actually stuck with, and have had a lot of fun doing so. It all started when I emptied out my wardrobe and was astounded at the size of the pile of clothes in front of me that I was ready to dispose of - some had only been worn once or twice! If every person threw out as many clothes as I did at the start of this year, that's got to be a lot of waste, right?

RIGHT. And the reality is, most people are throwing out as much as me. This problem goes far beyond just my wardrobe – it's a global epidemic. Beneath the glossy exterior of the fashion industry, the reality of the waste that occurs is shocking. The fashion industry is one of the top 5 global polluters. It comes at a huge cost for our planet (and your pockets!), and it's about time we addressed it.

Some of you may already have an inkling about why constantly buying into new trends isn't a great idea, while others may have no idea – wherever on the spectrum you lie, hopefully the facts below will encourage you to start making some small (or big!) changes to put an end to fast fashion.

By 2050, it is estimated there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans.

You might be wondering what this has to do with your clothes. Well, every time you wash your synthetic or polyester clothes, hundreds and thousands of micro-plastics go down the drain. Water treatment facilities don't catch them all, so they end up in our waterways, contributing to the excessive amounts of plastic in our oceans. But this doesn't just mean that plastic is floating around in rubbish patches; it is actually consumed by the animals, which makes its way up the food chain to us.

To reduce the impact your fashion choices have on plastic pollution, maybe you could try washing your clothes less. It might sound gross, but it could actually be the logical option! When shopping, it is also preferable to look for clothes made from natural fibres, rather than polyester or synthetic fabrics. Some great options to look out for are: organic cotton, linen, tencel, silk, hemp, wool and bamboo.

Of course, clothes are not only a pollutant when you wash them, but more significant is the raw amount we throw out…

In 2013, $500 million worth of clothing was taken to landfill in Australia. Currently, that's 6000kg of clothes every 10 minutes.

Directly linked to the growth in fashion waste is the growth in fashion convenience. Online shopping, free shipping and constant flash sales attract customers to buy more clothes. Reduced cost or a free return allows people to justify purchases they wouldn't have otherwise made – all at the cost of our environment. Because of this, the average Australian buys 27kg of new clothing and textiles per year. Then what? These are then worn an average of 7 times, and sent to landfill.

When clothing, or anything for that matter, enters landfill, it not only takes years to decompose, but releases methane as it does so. This is a harmful greenhouse gas heavily contributing to global warming; in Australia, landfill is one of the biggest producers of methane. When hearing this, you might think, ok well I'll send my old clothes to op shops instead! However, in reality only 15% of the clothes sent to op shops are deemed fit to sell locally. The rest are made into industrial rags, taken to landfill, or shipped to developing countries, which can in turn disrupt the local textile economy.

Evidently, we need to go to the root of the problem: Rather than just finding different ways to dispose of your clothes, buy less.

This might seem difficult, especially when fashion trends are constantly changing and we're all trying to keep up. But if you dedicate the time to thinking about what's in your wardrobe and curating it to ensure it's full of quality items that you love, you'll notice yourself considering more carefully before you buy. Here are our top three things to think about when buying new clothes:

  1. Does it match with at least 3 other items in your wardrobe? If not, you may only get a few wears out of it. People wear a garment an average of 7 times before disposing of it, contributing to the exorbitant amount of waste. However if you make sure it fits in with the rest of your wardrobe, you'll be able to wear it a lot and have no need for new clothes!
  2. Are you 100% sold on it? Don't buy based on trends, buy based on whether it makes you feel and look great. If there's any hesitation there, that probably won't go away, and the piece of clothing will just sit around gathering dust at the back of your wardrobe until you throw it away.
  3. Is it a quality item that will last? Rather than buying cheap clothes regularly, spend money instead on a quality item that will last. This is the idea behind a capsule wardrobe, a method used to limit your wardrobe to 30 or so quality items that you love to wear. If you want to try this, check out our tips for making a capsule wardrobe here!

Let's get circular.

The allure of keeping up with fashion trends is simultaneously promoting the continuation of a linear economy: things are made, we buy them, they get thrown out. But we need to start promoting a circular economy, whereby we start reselling or repurposing things we don't want or need anymore. The simplest way to do this is instead of buying new, buy second hand. Op shops always have a few gems, often even old items that have now come back in trend – a cheap way of getting that vintage chic. A lot of shops also upcycle clothes, mending or remaking old clothes into new ones.

Of course, you could do this for yourself! If you want to mend some old clothes that you love, but don't know how, check out our DIY guide to mending your own clothes. Or, if you want to add some colour, check out our tutorial on natural home-made clothes dyes here.

Know where your clothes come from.

1 in 6 people globally work in the fashion industry. While you might even be one of those people, we need to start drawing our attention away from the stores and to the start of the process: where do our clothes come from?

What many clothing brands don't talk about are the places they source their fabric, or the factories where their clothes are made. In a global economy, it's very easy to become disconnected from this issue, when all we see is the beautiful clothes in the beautiful shops. However, to get them there, many workers are exploited along the production line. Whether this means being paid minimum dollar for their fabrics, forced into slave labour or not given any worker rights, we need to be more aware of the implications of where our clothes are coming from.

In order to buy better, check out an ethical assessment of your favourite brands. This assesses brands in a variety of different categories, giving the public an easy to read assessment of their ethical practices. A 2018 version has recently been released which you can check out here.

It's really not so hard to stop buying new clothes, if you just stop yourself from walking into that store or opening that web page. Out of sight, out of mind! There are many other ways to get your everyday look, by buying second hand or mending or upcycling your own clothes. Of course, we don't expect you to stop entirely, but just make sure those clothes you're buying are quality natural fibres that are ethically made. If we all did this, we could overturn the damaging impacts of fast fashion, and celebrate a return to simplicity.

READ NEXT: I Didn't Buy Any New Clothes For A Whole Year And It Was Totally Fine


Rhiannon Verschuer Intern Suggest an article Send us an email