With trends changing regularly, fashion’s environmental impact has become extremely damaging. Fast fashion is a craze with a lot of answer for. The fashion industry produces 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping according to the UN. Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. Fast fashion’s effect is so damaging that it has become one of the most environmentally crippling industries on the planet.
However, there is a new trend on the rise: that the fashion industry needs to do more about sustainability and pay attention to reducing its negative impact on the environment. While it is fashion brands that should be held to account for the impact of their procedures, there are changes we can make at the consumer level to limit the extent to which we become implicit in the environment degradation. It would be unrealistic to expect consumers to stop shopping on a large scale, but we can be more conscious about our shopping behaviour. With that said, here are a few steps that we can take in St Andrews to alter our patterns of consumption and be more mindful on a budget.
In general, it’s important to pay attention to the composition of the products you are buying, wherever you’re shopping. The greenest fabrics consist of renewable fibres which are easy to grow or produce. They use limited water and energy to produce and are recyclable. Keep your eyes peeled for linen, hemp, bamboo, lyocell, silk and organic wool. By selecting your fashion based on the composition of the fabrics, you can be sure that the product was produced with little environmental impact and that the fabric can be recycled and reused once you’re finished with it.
Donating your clothes to one of the many charity shops in town is the most obvious step to being environmentally friendly with your fashion. Not only with you be extending the life of your garment but you will also help someone else be greener with their shopping habits. By donating your clothes, you will be helping a charity and you’ll avoid contributing to fashion’s harmful practices. Selling unwanted clothes on eBay or contributing to a swap party are also good ideas to extend the life of fast fashion.
In December 2018, Sustainable Style St Andrews was founded with a mission to promote second-hand clothes swapping and selling, tackle fast fashion and enhance a circular economy in St Andrews. The group works with Transition to put on events throughout the semester to provide a platform for clothes swapping and selling. The next time you’re in need of a wardrobe refresh or shuffle, check out their Facebook page for upcoming event details. Supporting a student-run initiative, while simultaneously cutting down on waste seems like a clever idea to me!
H&M launches the Conscious Exclusive collection every year. The collection comprises of environmentally friendly pieces that allows us to shop sustainable fashion at a reasonable price. From mom jeans made from organic cotton to oversized jumpers made from recycled polyester, the Conscious collection allows you to take care of the environment without sacrificing your savings or style.
In 2013, H&M were the first fashion brand to launch a global garment collection initiative. The initiative allows customers to hand in any unwanted clothes or materials to any H&M store regardless of the brand or the condition of them in return for a £5 voucher to spend in-store. The project is not perfect as there are many criticisms regarding how a very small portion of donated clothes are actually recycled. Recycling fabrics diminishes the quality of the material and it is very expensive. Nonetheless, most of the donations H&M collects end up in second-hand clothing markets, often in Africa and Central and South America. The next time you go to throw out a top that no longer fits or some old inconveniently-ripped jeans, get yourself along to H&M on Market Street. Giving H&M the opportunity to give your clothes a second life is surely preferable to adding fashion to the fire.
Fat Face (also on Market Street) has a clothing collecting initiative that follows a similar process. You can drop your old clothes and shoes in their collection box and then their partner, I:CO will collect them.
My final suggestion is to reuse. You can also repurpose old clothing by altering it. Patch up old jeans or cut them into shorts. Old tops can be brought back into life with some embroidery if you feel like getting creative. Learning some funky stitching skills means you can pick up, or rediscover, a fun hobby while being mindful of fashion pollution.