Fast fashion is the mass manufacture of cheap throwaway clothing in response to the latest trends. The clothes make their way very quickly from production to shelf to consumer and then to landfill, and are produced without ethical concern for working conditions or consciousness of their environmental impact. The fashion industry contributes more pollution to climate change than aeronautical and shipping industries combined and accounts for 25 per cent of the global carbon budget by 2050. There is also a large requirement for materials and water, leading to shortages. So, how can we as students make a difference?
As consumers, we can make changes in our habits to reduce the waste and environmental impact of our clothing. The easiest way to shop sustainably is to upcycle and repair items you already own. In this way, we can get the maximum value for the clothes and keep them in use for as long as possible. If you just can’t find the same love for your clothes that you did when you bought them, why not try thrift shopping? Sheffield is home to several charity and vintage stores that sell pre-loved clothes at a fraction of the price you would pay on the high street. You can also use it as an opportunity to donate and clear your closet without contributing to landfill. The next vintage sale is on in the Students’ Union on Thursday 27 February, so check it out to pick up a bargain!
Shopping locally for clothes is another good way to lessen the impact of climate change as it reduces pollution from shipping and transport. There are some great ethical and sustainable brands in Sheffield such as Syd and Mallory for graphic sweatshirts and Noble & Wylie for durable, handmade boots. There is also a blooming Sheffield scene for handmade jewellery, which you can pick up from craft and flea fairs or from local stores such as MoonKo or Foundling Studio.
Many high street brands have also made a start on assembling sustainable collections such as H&M’s Conscious Exclusive collection. H&M also allows you to drop off any unwanted clothes and materials for recycling in exchange for vouchers to spend in-store. Zara also launched their ‘Join Life’ initiative and are aiming by the end of 2020 to send nothing to landfill. If you prefer to shop online, there are plenty of brands such as Reformation, Weekday, and Mango. Fjallraven currently has a limited edition Re-Kanken backpack which is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.
Goodonyou.eco is a really good resource for checking the values of companies you purchase from. They score brands and retailers on how they treat people, animals and the planet. The ‘people’ aspect considers everything from child labour to payment of a living wage and even the auditing practises they use. Their ‘animals’ criteria include whether the companies use fur, down feathers or exotic animal skins. It also considers if the company is taking steps to change legislation for the better. Finally, under the ‘planet’ criteria they assess resource use and disposal, carbon emissions and chemical and water use. Goodonyou is a simple system to use and can give you peace of mind when purchasing from a retailer who you don’t know much about.