Fast Fashion: The Real Cost

…. and 3 Tips for Making Eco-Friendly Fashion Choices

By Lee Manto, EnviroCentre Volunteer.

Today teenagers like me enjoy following fashion trends and purchasing designer brands. Today we can buy popular and inexpensive designer clothing, and even get it delivered right to our door.

These habits have become so common that we don’t tend to think about the environmental impact. Studies show that people are buying up to 60% more clothing items per year as of 2014 compared to the year 2000. In fact, the fashion industry makes up 10% of the world’s CO2 emissions, with the majority of the clothing products eventually making their way into the world’s landfills.

As a consumer, it’s easy to feel like you can’t make a change. But you can! These tips will not only help you reduce waste but will also save you and your family money in the long term.

Tip #1: Purchase, Donate, Sell

The first and most effective way to reduce your impact is to purchase, donate or sell used clothes. When you make the decision to buy used clothing, you not only reduce the production of harmful materials, you also reduce the number of unwanted garments entering landfills. Places like The Clothes Secret, The Salvation Army and Rikochet Resale are all great choices in Ottawa.

An increasingly popular trend among teens is shopping for good deals on trendy clothes at Value Village, which is often referred to as “VV” by us young people. These stores will usually accept almost any clothes/accessories that arrive in good condition, which can range from shirts, to shoes, to sunglasses.

Tip #2: Support Sustainable Brands

Another great way to make a difference is to buy your clothes from companies that choose to create sustainable and ethically sourced products.

Did you know that fast fashion is the second largest water polluter out of any industry? The majority of cheap products are not made sustainably and are lined with synthetic fabrics like polyester, acrylic, and nylon.. When you buy from environmentally oriented companies, it puts pressure on the big industry players to make a change for the better.

There are many organic, sustainable, popular and widely available brands that use organic & recycled materials. A few popular ones among teens are Frank and Oak, Outland and Patagonia, a favourite also due to its comfortable and flashy designs. 

Tip #3: Buy Local and Canadian

The final and most pricey method to shop for clothes is to buy your clothes from local or Canadian businesses. Buying from local Canadian clothing brands rather than supporting imported clothes eliminates the CO2 emitted in transit, as well as any unnecessary packaging. On top of this, by buying local, you can ensure the workers creating your garments are paid a fair living wage and are working in a safe environment.

It’s very important to research the origins of your clothing before purchasing it if you want to have a real impact. Muttonhead, Wings + Horns, Arc’teryx Veilance and Roots all focus on sustainability practices.

As a teenager myself, I am aware that it can be tempting to follow trends and buy from big distributors. But why not start your own wave and lead the way for others? Not only will you feel fulfilled, but you’ll reduce your impact and support ethical and sustainable clothing brands in the process.

If you choose to buy reused, recycled, organic or locally made products, you are effectively doing your part to make the fashion world a better place.

About the Author

Lee Manto is a high-school student with a keen interest in sustainability and a volunteer at EnviroCentre.

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