In the last two decades, technology has transformed the world. While some may argue that technology has increased the efficiency of many processes and improved quality of life, there have also been major drawbacks associated with its uses that have caused nearly irreversible damage to the environment. Technology has dramatically altered many industries and markets, such as the fashion industry. This industry is one of the largest consumers of natural resources and producers of waste. The fashion industry, with the help of technological advancement, managed to keep up with the rapidly changing and fast-paced world — which created a new global issue: fast fashion. Fast fashion creates many issues that harm the environment. Slow fashion is an innovative strategy to counter the impacts created by fast fashion. It may also restore ecosystems.
Slow fashion is a term first used by design activist Kate Fletcher. It focuses on designing, producing, consuming, and living better. Slow fashion is not time-based, but quality-based. This approach makes designers, buyers, retailers and consumers more aware of the impacts of products on workers, communities, and ecosystems. It encourages a circular economy, rather than a linear one which is common and widely accepted in today’s society. It values sustainability, ethical conduct, quality over quantity, and thrives on the principles of reducing, reusing, and recycling, as well as restoring and replenishing items rather than discarding them. The main goal of slow fashion is to reduce, if not eliminate, fashion industry products from entering landfills or being incinerated, and minimize the pollution generated in the production process.
While there are many problems caused by fast fashion, three major environmental issues are amplified by the fashion industry’s unsustainable processes: excessive water usage, emission of greenhouse gasses, and waste. Indeed, slow fashion has provided creative and plausible solutions to tackle these issues and might put an end to the impractical ways of fast fashion.
The fashion industry uses an absurdly large amount of water in order to grow crops like cotton, and to create synthetic materials, like polyester. The industry uses a lot of cotton, which is an extremely thirsty crop, requiring about 20,000 liters of water for an output of 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds). This amount of cotton only produces one T-shirt and a pair of jeans. According to the Energy Saving Trust, this amount of water can supply a family of four with water for nearly four years.
Additionally, synthetic materials are made from coal and petroleum and require an extensive amount of energy. Massive amounts of greenhouse gases are released in the production process. These materials cannot decompose or be biodegraded, which causes nearly 85% of all textiles in the United States to be sent to landfills. In fact, Americans on average throw away 70 pounds of clothing every year.
Slow fashion has proven that there is another, more efficient way to operate. Rather than using and buying products made from synthetic materials, consumers and businesses can opt for more eco-friendly choices, such as bamboo or organic cotton, that do not contain pesticides or require nearly as much water to be produced. Furthermore, slow fashion encourages alternative options to buying new clothes and other items.
For instance, slow fashion promotes different means of reusing items. People can upcycle, thrift, and restore existing items. Upcycling involves reusing an item that would otherwise be discarded. This method improves the item’s quality and gives it a new purpose. Thrifting means buying secondhand and used items. Restoration encourages people to repair items in order to prolong these items’ lifespan. The goal of all three methods is to reduce the amount of products that would become waste in landfills, reduce amounts of waste produced in the manufacturing process, and ensure that products are not disposed of if they can still be used. This is important because it prevents many items that can still be utilized to become waste.
Furthermore, the process of creating new items is harmful for both humans and the environment. Producing clothing can lead to water scarcity by polluting large bodies of water with dyes and toxins that harm both humans and aquatic life. Moreover, the fashion industry is responsible for almost 10% of all carbon emissions. With such a great carbon footprint, it comes as no surprise that manufacturing just one pair of jeans emits the same amount of greenhouse gases as driving a car for almost 70 miles.
Apart from the fact that slow fashion reduces waste production, water usage, pollution, carbon footprints, and exposure to toxic chemicals, there are even more benefits to choosing slow fashion: it saves money and cultivates personal style.
Not only is it environmentally friendly, slow fashion is also cost effective and enhances the uniqueness of one’s wardrobe. Since most slow fashion items are preloved, replenished, recycled, or all three, the cost of buying these items instead of new ones is significantly less. While supporting green businesses is, at times, more expensive, in the long run, investing in higher quality items that will last longer saves money.
Slow fashion also helps cultivate a more creative and unique wardrobe. It is artistic to find the hidden gems in thrift stores or transform an item into something that serves multiple purposes. Slow fashion is timeless.
Slow fashion has become a pillar for ethical and eco-friendly fashion. It encourages people to pursue a greener way of life. It is expediting the shift to a more eco-conscious world by drawing attention to the harms caused by the fashion industry and presenting various methods to help prevent unsustainable activities. Slow fashion aims to reduce the amount of waste produced. It advocates for manufacturing less clothing, shopping secondhand, restoring what already exists, using renewable and ethical resources, and upcycling items to give them new purposes. Consumers possess the power to break destructive fast fashion production when they become more conscious and react in a sustainable way. Like many industries, the fashion industry’s main goal is to maximize its profits. If consumers decide to stop encouraging fast fashion and end their support of brands that harm the environment, fast fashion will quickly fall.
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