Inspiration & Empowerment - A day in the life of fashion
23 July 2019 - Posted by The Sisterhood of Sustainability
You’ve heard of fast food but do you know what fast fashion is? Keeping up with the latest fashion trends has been an obsession for decades but do you know what impact your clothing habits are having on our environment and it’s people? Even if you’re not swayed by the fashion trends and limit your clothes shopping to things you need, it’s almost impossible to avoid the detrimental impact of fast fashion.
The impact of fast fashion and the benefits of sustainable production
People all over the Earth are addicted to cheaply made and poorly made clothing. They make impulse buys because of the enticing price and nine times out of ten, that piece of clothing is worn once and then tossed at the bottom of the wardrobe, never to see the light of day again.
While you make a vote with your money every day, it’s not just the customer at blame. Nearly every clothing store is guilty of stocking unethically produced clothing and turning a blind eye to the people who earn a wage that doesn't even cover the cost of living, the use of toxic and harmful dyes and chemicals and the consequent environmental issues.
You might be wondering how fast fashion can be so toxic but the impact of the clothing industry is so significant that Greenpeace has launched a campaign to make substantial changes in the industry. In 2012, Greenpeace conducted an investigation into the use of toxic chemicals in major fashion brands and documented the findings in Toxic Thread: The Big Fashion Stitch Up.
The investigation tested chemicals in the garments of 20 major and international fashion brands, purchase from authorised retailers in 29 different countries and found that two thirds of the items had nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) present. NPEs are harmful endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are widely used in textile processing. These chemicals mess around with your hormones and frequent exposure can can an impact upon your reproductive health.
They also found that majority of the garments contained very high levels of cancer causing amines. How can these cancer causing chemicals affect you? Well your skin is more absorbent than you think and frequent wearing of these kind of garments mean that the chemicals can be absorbed through the skin of the wearer. This risk is also higher if you wear the garment without washing it first.
It’s also extremely worrying that many of the garments that Greenpeace tested were well known children’s brands. Occasionally, these toxic garments will be picked up by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission regulator and in 2009, 200,000 denim products that contained carcinogenic dyes were recalled. A few of the brands included I this recall were Cotton On, Just Jeans, Rivers and Myers.
The clothes you buy don’t just affect your health either, harmful synthetic chemicals also have an impact on the workers and communities in the country where the garments have been manufactured. In most places, policies and procedures aren’t in place to protect these workers or are poorly enforced. NPEs are also toxic to fish and other marine life so having these chemicals leach into the waterways is detrimental to flora and fauna all over the world.
Ready to make a sustainable change now and avoid fast fashion? There’s a few steps you can take to begin the journey on the road to change.
1. Declutter your wardrobe! I don’t mean go and throw out every piece of clothing you’ve already bought because that damage has already been done. Instead, consider which pieces of clothing you don't wear and why. Was it an impulse buy because of an irresistible sale or did the shop assistant convince you that you really needed it? Whatever the reason, next time you go to purchase clothing, really be mindful of the reason why and eliminate unnecessary purchases.
2. Learn to live with less. It’s not necessary to have a different outfit for every day of your life and while the Queen might get away with it, it’s neither sustainable nor ethical. Every one has their favourite pieces of clothing so try dressing yours up and down with different accessories rather than buying a whole new piece of clothing
3. Grown up or out? If you own pieces of clothing that you no longer wear because it no longer fits or because you never wear it, hand it down to a friend or family member who will give it a new lease on life. If you can’t think of anyone you know who would make use of it, donate it to the nearest op shop so that it can be taken home with a new owner while simultaneously raising money for the less fortunate
4. Research your ethical and non-toxic options. The good news is that as people are becoming more and more aware of their sustainable and ethical impact, more businesses and brands are adopting better practices. Do your research to find brands you love that are also ethical and use non-toxic dyes and materials. Look for organic and sustainable fabrics too!