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August 2, 2018

THE DOWNSIDE OF FAST FASHION AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT

Who isn’t addicted to Netflix these days? Recently I started watching different documentaries and the last one I watched, entitled “The True Cost”, left me in a huge predicament. The story shows the abuses that come with fast fashion—not just on the workers in developing countries who toil endlessly so that people in developed nations can get a bargain and companies can earn a greater profit but also on the environment and how it has taken a toll on mother nature and on the rest of humanity.

Fast fashion has allowed us to be able to get high-fashion style at a low-price. Thanks to brands like Forever 21, Zara, H&M, Uniqlo, Top Shop and the like we can enjoy trends without having to spend too much on it. It’s definitely a win for us consumers and for the companies but not so much for the other people in the supply chain. Garment workers in Bangladesh have died because the factory owners don’t invest in decent working conditions because they need to be able to keep prices down to compete as a supplier for these big fashion retailers. Agricultural companies are producing genetically modified seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides so that cotton can grow all year long, doing irreparable damage to the land and to people. In India, tanneries pour out millions of liters of toxic waste water which contaminate water sources for farming and household use. In Cambodia, garment workers have died trying to get their government to give them a minimum wage of just $160 USD (about PHP8,500).

I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. Should I just completely stop buying from fast fashion brands? I knew that would be very hard especially when H&M has become part of my list of places to visit everywhere I go, whether locally or abroad. I’ve always loved getting a great deal especially when it comes to fashion. I mean, who doesn’t, right? So what can we do? We need to be responsible consumers.

If we’re buying, let’s be more conscious of the items that we buy. Let’s do away with the “throw-away” attitude and the “more, more, more” mentality and just buy items that we know we will really use and will last us a long time. In the US (don’t have stats in the Philippines), 10.5 million tons of clothing is sent to landfills every year and because most of it is not biodegradable it just sits there forever and releases harmful gases into the air. That’s just one country. I don’t even want to compute for the rest of the world.

If we can avoid buying clothes, let’s take the #haulternative challenge and refresh your wardrobe without buying new clothes. Some suggestions on how to do this: clothes swapping with other people, thrift shopping only (my goddaughter does this and she looks fab!), and DIY customisation. Check out Pinterest and YouTube for inspiration.

Get to know your brands and only buy from those you know are being responsible producers and transparent with their business. If you’re interested and want to get more information on this, you can check out the fashion transparency index.

Dispose old clothes properly to make sure they don’t end up in landfills. H&M will take your old clothes and textiles and reward you with a voucher for every bag you bring to the store (note: they will only accept a maximum of 2 bags per person per day because of storage constraints). Just remember that, as tempting as it is to use that voucher, you’re trying to be a responsible consumer.

And while we’re at it, let’s not just be responsible consumers, let’s be better human beings.

Photos from LinkedIn and Newsweek

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