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Shopping Sustainably

By Jack Turpen

There is no question surrounding this fact: the fashion industry has had an exceptionally large and negative impact on the environment. From overproduction, to pollution, the fashion world needs to do better. It is extremely easy to contribute to the issue without any prior knowledge of it. Buying clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry, over-consumption, and maximalism is a part of human nature. How can people change these patterns? How can people start contributing to sustainable means? There are many ways in which people can start shopping -- and living, in a more sustainable way. 

Overconsumption is the heart of the fashion industry's damage to the environment. The more people consume, the more companies will continue to produce. As trends come and go, the average person will buy sixty-eight items of clothing per year. That is without considering how much a family might need to purchase within a year. Twenty percent of what the fashion industry produces is thrown away. Overconsumption is contributing to the amount of waste that Americans are making. Though it will take work to get rid of this issue, there is a way for people to start making a change.  

The fashion industry is contributing to the overconsumption of fashion, particularly through “fast fashion”. Fast fashion is inexpensive clothing that is produced rapidly by mass-market retailers. Some major fast fashion retailers include Shein, ASOS, Target, H&M, forever 21, and more. Especially within the past few years fast fashion use has run rampant. It is a tricky thing to ask people to reduce the amount they shop at these businesses. When someone is so indoctrinated into a system of consumption, how can they break that cycle? It is not about flipping one’s life around. It is all about acknowledging the problem and doing what one can to make it better. By reducing the amount that one shops for clothing at Shein, for example, they are doing what they can. What really comes down to is the use of the clothing. 

When buying an item of clothing, it is important to think about how much use it will get. Is this item going to be worn once, then thrown away? By doing so, that item is contributing to the problem. A large majority of the clothing that is thrown away by Americans, is kept in landfills. The average American, according to a report done by the EPA Office of Solid Waste US, throws away an average of 66 pounds of clothing each year. People buy something, they wear it a few times, and it ends up in the dumpster within the next two to three years. An effortless way to reduce one’s contribution to that problem is by purchasing smaller amounts and using those items more. By using a clothing item as much as possible, the consumption amount is reduced.  

Another easy way to reduce one’s carbon footprint within fashion is by thrifting. Thrifting is purchasing resold items that have been used. It is a very cheap shopping practice that just so happens to be extremely trendy. Thrifting does not reduce the amount that companies are producing, but it helps keep closets eco-friendly. By reusing these clothing items, people help to not contribute to that overproduction. The same practice can be used when purchasing designer items. Poshmark and Depop are amazing apps to utilize when buying designer products. In fact, it is much smarter to buy resold and used designer items. By doing so, the item that is being purchased is hard to find within the market. Vintage is always in style!  

When looking for a way to purchase new, unused, pieces, there are plenty of eco-friendly options out there, although a little harder to find, the search is well worth the reward. Some brands include Lora Gene, Birdsong, and Sabinna. One of the most well-known sustainable designers is Stella McCartney. McCartney’s brand is known for cruelty-free and organic materials and praised for their use of eco-friendly packaging. Stella McCartney is best for sustainable ready-to-wear that accommodates gender expressions. Overall, when looking to shop sustainably, it is always best to look for small businesses. The quantity that smaller businesses produce does not contribute to overproduction as much as bigger name brands.  

Shopping patterns are always going to be hard to shake, and the industry is slowly, but steadily, changing. People need to start looking at the way they go about clothing purchases. Minor changes, though they may scare people, are not very hard to apply to everyday life. By reducing the amount that is being consumed, and shopping in smarter, more eco-friendly ways, the problem will slowly change for the better.

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