“Participate by not participating,” – whisper environmentalists on Black Friday, as members of the affluent world rationalize their purchases of discounted (and likely unnecessary) products.
By now, we’re very much aware that the fashion industry, along with its (unfortunately) successful marketing scheme, is designed in a way that pushes us to spend an unequivocal amount of money to keep up with the latest trends. We’re all guilty of it – and in the same way very privileged to be in such a position. Picture your wardrobe and within it your favourite pieces. Chances are, you rarely wear things you bought 2-3 years ago. The “this coat is older than you are!” phrase our parents often said has become obsolete, simply because of the dominance of fast fashion.
The fashion and textile industry, being the second largest polluter in the world, operates in a linear system. This means that the average life span of a single item we buy begins at the point when natural resources are extracted for its production and ends with us throwing it away into the landfill. We contribute to a system that promotes no circulation between Point A and Point B, assuming that natural resources will be available indefinitely. We continue to drill, exploit and cut down our natural environment to cater to our increasing demand of stuff. Given that we’re already using up 1.5x the amount of our planet’s resources to sustain our current consumption patterns, this type of linear system is simply not sustainable.
In November 2016, Greenpeace Germany published a fact-sheet on fast fashion emphasizing the urgency to change our ways. They found that we’re buying 60% more clothes than previously, most of which end up in the waste. It was predicted that by 2025, the sales from clothing will exceed $2.1 trillion making it readily evident that our extreme consumption is pushing Earth beyond its capacities. The production of textiles generates enormous waste, energy and water use (it takes over 7000 L to produce a pair of jeans) and rising labour concerns for the unethical treatment of its workers, especially women and children in developing regions of the world.
In order for a sustainable system to work, we need to reduce our consumption and develop a circular framework that will extend the life of textiles by improving their quality and ability to be reused and recycled. In other words, we need to partake in sustainable fashion.
Sustainable fashion, also known as eco-fashion, encompasses the philosophy of creating a system that can support our fashion consumption (although in much lower intensity) while simultaneously reducing environmental and social implications. One of such ways is by adopting Sarah Lazarovic’s ‘Buyerarchy of Needs’ – an infamous Maslow spin-off:
Sarah’s purchasing mantra can be applied to any type of materialistic consumption; it all starts with awareness on an individual level.
At the beginning of the school year, I de-cluttered my space entirely by selling, donating and swapping my unworn pieces. While doing this, I operated with the mindset that I couldn’t buy any more clothes this year – an approach that made me re-consider how I treat the things I own and aware of the impact I had on the environment. Naturally, having less creates more physical and mental space for the “things” that matter way more – the people you love, creating positive ideas or connecting with nature in the right ways.
Participating in sustainable fashion doesn’t always mean you refrain from purchasing new items completely. It’s about being a conscious consumer, recognizing the true necessity of that product and only supporting businesses that operate on sustainable and ethical values.
Before you fill your (physical or virtual) shopping carts with more stuff over the Black Friday weekend, or on any other day, I encourage you to genuinely consider all that it entails.
Below are a few more tips I’ve brewed up:
Positive energies always.
“Nowadays we know the price of everything, and the value of nothing” – Oscar Wilde