We are living in a fast-paced society where fashion trends come and go at lightning speed. One day, chokers are in and the next thing you know, everyone else is wearing layered necklaces.
This is why companies like H&M, Forever 21, and Zara, just to name a few, are the leading fast-fashion retailers. They produce massive amounts of clothing at a fast rate to satisfy the consumers’ endless consumption.
There is power in images. Social media platforms like Instagram and Youtube are big on promoting consumerism. When you scroll through your feed, you will see “influencers” tagging the brand of clothes they are wearing. Most of the time, these are fast-fashion brands. Social media users are easily enticed by well-curated feeds and pretty photos, and are then lured into purchasing items they don’t need because it’s trendy and everyone else has it.
But the real question is, do we really need to buy that new shirt that everyone else is wearing?
The global fashion industry is worth billions of dollars, it’s also one of the biggest contributors to pollution. The clothing industry produces massive amounts of toxic waste from chemical dyes to left-over textile materials that ultimately ends up poisoning our natural resources.
According to statistics provided by Waste Reduction Week in Canada, on average Canadians throw away 81 pounds of clothing every year, while North Americans throw away 9.5 million tonnes of clothes. These clothes sit in landfills for years, emitting toxic fumes that are harmful to our planet and ultimately our health. Toxins from landfills will eventually leach into out soils and our watershed… soil we grow our crops on and water we drink.
So what can we do as consumers?
- Learn about the Cost Per Wear Ratio before buying an item.
What is Cost Per Wear Ratio? It is the Price of the item/ # of times you’ll wear said item = cost per wear.
Four years ago, I bought a pair of winter boots from this well-known brand for $150. It’s pricier than most pairs, but I’m investing in an item that I know I’ll wear more than once. I’ve worn these boots every day during the winter season. And guess what? I still have them. The initial cost of that item is $150 and I wore it at least 100 times during my first winter, that means the cost per wear of that item is $1.50. The cost per wear goes down the longer you are able to use an item. I’ve been using the same pair for almost five years now. The laces need to be replaced, but apart from that, it’s still wearable.
On the other hand, if you buy a $50 pair of winter boots from Walmart, chances are that they will fall apart quickly because of the poor quality. You’ll probably wear it for one winter season if it lasts that long. It’s only $50, but if you keep purchasing a new pair of boots every winter, the cost adds up.
As a student, I am always cautious whenever I go shopping. Learning about Cost Per Wear helped me become a conscious and responsible shopper. I no longer buy clothes just because they are on sale, and I am not accumulating items that I don’t need either. You create less waste if you buy fewer items. I’m slowly building my capsule wardrobe. I have purged my closet, and I am now left with items that I know I’ll wear for a long time.
- Be a conscious shopper
Know what kind of material a piece of clothing is made of. The material of your clothes will determine its quality. Avoid clothing items made out of synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon (simply different types of plastic) to name a few. These man-made fabrics are made out of harmful chemicals and they have traces of microplastics that end up harming our environment.
Buying fast-fashion items not only endangers our environment, but it also contributes to a system that promotes poor labour practices. The lives of factory workers are often endangered due to poor working conditions, and they are also paid unfairly. Watch the documentary The True Cost (available on Netflix) to learn more about the labour practices of different textile retailers and manufacturing processes.
Now-a-days, it’s easy to fall prey to brands slapping “eco-friendly” or “made sustainably” on their products, however, most of the time these claims are fabricated and just for show. Always do your research on a company, review their sustainability practices and see truly how transparent their claims are; be a mindful consumer.
- Find your balance.
Yes, sustainable slow-fashion clothing can be more expensive, but its important to note the reasons for the price. The use of quality material will last you a long time and you know that the workers who made your clothes have been paid the appropriate wage.
Choosing a sustainable and plastic-free lifestyle doesn’t mean that you don’t get to be fashionable. It also doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. You don’t have to pay $60 if you don’t have the budget for it, part of being a conscious shopper also means to live within your means. With the an abundance of thrift stores and consignment stores in Calgary, dressing sustainably is more accessible than you think! When you choose to buy used, you are giving that item a second life further reducing its cost per wear. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to look good. Being a conscious shopper, might even mean avoiding shopping during sale season – if you don need it, it’s not a good deal because anything on sale that you don’t need is expensive. If your budget only allows you to shop at H&M, choose the materials carefully (read the tag!), ask yourself if it’s truly worth the price and be sure you are going to wear it more than once.
Sell old clothes, donate them (make sure they are still wearable or else it gets thrown out), or swap them with your friends. Dumping clothes in the trash will only add to the growing problem of decaying textiles, leaching toxins into our earth. If it can’t be donated, turn them into rags. Use it for what it’s worth, as long as possible. Don’t just throw away a piece of clothing because it’s missing one button, fix it. But once a piece is truly finished its life-cycle, be sure to take it to our city’s textile recycling drop off so the textiles can be turned into something new (insulation, furniture stuffing and more).
Our goal is to inform and to educate people about the harmful effects of this throwaway culture that we live in. Our planet is slowly degrading because of mindless consumption and lack of compassion. It’s about time that we change that mindset.
~ Lea Luciano
Why clothes that are unsold are being destroyed: https://theoutline.com/post/2602/clothing-companies-are-trashing-unsold-merchandise-instead-of-donating-it
Why do we need Fashion Revolution: https://www.fashionrevolution.org/about/why-do-we-need-a-fashion-revolution/
Textile Recycling Facts and Figures: https://www.thebalancesmb.com/textile-recycling-facts-and-figures-2878122