The detrimental effects fast fashion has on the lives of many and the environment as a whole doesn’t come as a surprise to many, yet the substantial action needed is lacking. Recently, the clothing brand H&M has been advertising their “Bring It” campaign, urging consumers to donate old, worn clothing to their Garment Collection bins, where they can later be “given a new purpose.” At first glance, this may be considered a good start to combat the debatable quality of some of their products. But, according to esteemed professionals in the environmental field, less than one percent of clothing is actually recycled to make new clothing, exposing the process to be nowhere near as simple or effective as their feel-good ad paints it.
This trend of “greenwashing” (a company or organization spending more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact) seems to be the most prevalent in the fashion industry. While it’s refreshing to see our young society’s standards for large company productions rising, spotting which clothing brands are actually sustainable and which are jumping on the bandwagon of going green (and not really going green), is necessary to prompt a change in fast fashion.
So what can we do to recognize these false claims to be environmentally conscious? Environmentalist and author Elizabeth Cline recommends researching how brands approach sustainability systematically. “Looking at the big picture” in terms of how companies handle materials, water and waste is key. An easy way to get reliable information quickly is on the app Good On You; a system offering ranks of popular brands on a scale of “We Avoid” to “Great,” in how ethical it’s production is accounting for labor policies, animal cruelty, energy use and carbon emissions. Alternatives to fast fashion brands in the “Not Good Enough” category within the same price range are noted as well. With price being an obvious component in shopping for anything, it also important to keep in mind that higher-end brands with higher quality products are affordable when considering their longevity or how long you’ll be able to wear it.
“The next generation of consumers that are coming along expect products to be sustainable but they also expect them to be beautiful and affordable, so whatever brand can get formula of affordability, fashionability and access is going to win.”- Elizabeth Cline
The effort to make a change in how you shop might be a challenge but the impact will reward those who extend beyond you. It’s not too late to establish a resolution to shop ethically in this new year. During the wait for fast fashion brands to grow from greenwashing, shopping brands that are confirmed to be sustainable and taking the first steps to help the cause like thrifting and upscaling, are worthy actions to put in effect in the meantime.