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How the Rise in Online Shopping is Fuelling ‘Fast Fashion’
We’ve all seen the headlines about how tough it is for high street fashion retailers; from rising rents to protests about fast fashion and how it’s harming the environment, they’ve had to weather a lot of storms. But the biggest challenge that the high street and the environment has faced in recent years, and will continue to face, is the growth of online shopping.
While you could argue that online shopping has a lower carbon impact than actually driving to the shops in our cars, this is cancelled out by the huge volume of waste that cheap online fashion offerings create. When we buy online, we can buy a mountain of clothes then return as many as we want. These returns will be resold in the best case scenario, and in the worst, they end up in landfill.
Some online retailers have started to take action against people who continuously order and return goods at will, and there was talk of adding a 1p tax on each item of clothing a retailer sells to discourage wasteful and damaging environmental practices, but so far this hasn’t progressed.
Fast fashion has a bad reputation
If you’re a bit of a fashion junkie, you probably love being able to get cut-price clothing with next day or even same day delivery, but spare a thought for what this is doing to the environment.
Think about it; if online retailers need to keep costs down and churn out millions of new garments in the least possible amount of time, the environment is not likely to be high on their list of considerations. The statistics around the environmental impact of fast fashion make for grim reading.
- It accounts for 10% of global emissions that contribute to climate change.
- A lorry full of textiles is sent to landfill or the incinerator EVERY SECOND.
- One-fifth of the world’s water pollution is caused by the fast fashion industry.
Let’s dig deeper and look at the particular ways in which fast fashion is harming our environment.
Before you stock up on your bright coloured garments for spring and summer, think about how clothes are dyed. Toxic chemicals are used to dye them and they pollute water. People and animals then bathe in or drink this water, without knowing that there are hormone-disrupting and carcinogenic chemicals in it.
The problem with polyester
Polyester is one of the most commonly used fabrics in clothing. But did you know that when it’s washed, it can shed tiny plastic fibres that can end up in our waterways, causing harm to marine life and ending up in the food chain?
The impact of growing cotton
It takes a lot of water and pesticides to grow cotton, which can be harmful to the environment, animals, and people.
What can we do?
The good news is that as a consumer, you do have a lot of power to make more sustainable choices that might just force manufacturers and retailers to change their practices. Here’s what you can do:
Buy less clothing
Instead of filling your online cart with cheaper items every week, try buying good quality clothing that will last much longer and create less waste. You can also think about buying second-hand clothing. Charity shops tend to have a lot of great items these days, especially those in affluent areas, and you can also pick up some quality nearly-new pieces on Facebook marketplace and eBay. You get to save the planet and save money; what’s not to love?
Sell, recycle, or donate your unwanted clothing
It’s almost the time of the year for the annual spring clean and if this includes getting around to sorting out your wardrobe, please don’t be tempted to bin your clothing. If it’s in decent condition, you can sell it online or donate it to charity, or even if it’s not fit to be worn again, the textiles can be recycled to make something new.
Make do and mend
If it’s a case of a button that’s popped off or a broken zip, these can be easily mended. If you are a little bit creative, you can also upcycle some of your clothing. Add embellishments, get creative with dye, or even repurpose old sweaters as cushion covers.
Only wash your clothes when you need to
Now we’re not suggesting you abandon personal hygiene completely, but there are some items of clothing that will last longer if you wash them less often and at lower temperatures, like jeans, which only need to be washed once every few months.
Opt for natural materials
If clothing is only made from one type of material, it automatically becomes easier to recycle and is probably more sustainably produced, like organic cotton, where no toxic chemicals are involved in production or processing.
Buy clothing made from recycled materials
Some brands like Adidas are making clothing and footwear from recycled plastics, and other retailers are following suit. Buying clothing with some recycled content reduces waste and preserves precious natural resources.
We hope we’ve given you some inspiration on how you can be a more sustainable shopper and still look great. We could carry on as we are, buying mountains of cheap clothes, but we have to ask ourselves; what is the real cost?