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While “retail therapy” temporarily improves a shopper’s mood, the social and environmental impacts are long-lasting. Fast fashion is an unethical, unsustainable business model that rapidly mass produces clothing to be sold at low prices. It is cheaper than ever to “stay trendy” with the latest fashion designs. It is common consumer knowledge that fast fashion brands offer poor quality clothing, yet most of us are outfitted with their latest styles. Clothing that is worn and washed a handful of times before being thrown away; it is hard to resist designer looks at bargain prices. Ultimately this is a linear, unsustainable clothing system, consisting of “grow-sew-buy-wear-trash”. Unfortunately, too many of us have supported this system.

The affordability of fast fashion comes at the expense of environmental and social justice. The lifecycle of a garment, from textile production to the final fast fashion resting place — the landfill — is destructive. Raw material such as cotton are water intensive to produce, decreasing fresh-water supplies. Textile dyes and harmful chemicals used during clothing manufacturing pollute our freshwater sources. Machine-wash clothing releases microfibers and microplastics into waste water every time we wash it. The fashion industry is a major contributor to air and water pollution. Drinking water is not just an environmental issue, it’s a public health and safety issue. In fact, the industry accounts for 10 percent of carbon emissions, consuming more fossil fuels than the aviation and shipping industries.

The environmental impact of the fashion industry is undeniable, but the exploitation of workers on every level of the supply chain is despicable. Garment workers endure unsafe working conditions at a nonliving wage. Basic workers’ rights are sacrificed to keep tag prices low. This issue was amplified globally in 2013. The Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. More than 1,000 were killed and 2,000 injured, marking the accident as the most tragic accident in the garment industry. It is a reminder of the true cost of fast fashion brands.

It is up to conscious consumers, you and me, to “vote with our dollar” by aligning “purchasing power” with personal values. The conscious consumer shifts the mindset from disposable to sustainable. The most sustainable clothing is clothing you already own. Shop your closet: If you’re anything like me, you have clothes in your closet that still have the tags on them! I guarantee that you will find some forgotten favorites in the back of your closet. Mix and match your favorite pieces to create a variety of new looks. Go thrifting; shopping in consignment stores is always a treasure hunt. No shame or buyer remorse necessary, there are many phone apps and consignment stores to donate, resell, or buy new/slightly used apparel. Many retailers offer textile recycling programs, encouraging customers to recycle unwanted garments while reducing the amount of clothing in landfills. Remember to choose ethical brands supplying clothing that is sustainably manufactured at fair wages, in a safe work environment. Fill your wardrobe with quality-made, timeless pieces that withstand ever-changing fashion trends. Refrain from single-wear washing to extend the longevity of your apparel. A time capsule closet is your best weapon against the fast fashion industry. It is up to us, conscious consumers, to shop self-expressive fashion that is also ethical and sustainable.

Go Green Galloway is a volunteer organization dedicated to reducing the carbon footprint of Galloway through the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation, environmental education and the implementation of sustainable practices. We always welcome new volunteer members. Contact us at gogreengalloway12@gmail.com or call Mary at 609-742-7076. Also be sure to like our Facebook page.

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