Bleed Greener: Sustainable Alternatives to Fast Fashion, the World’s Best-Dresser Polluter

This is the first edition of Alice Walters’ new environmental column, Bleed Greener. Alice’s column will be centred on sustainability and the climate crisis, tackling topics from Exeter’s local community response to eco-anxiety.

In recent years, consumers have demanded more and more from the fashion industry. They clamour for greater quantities of garments to fill their already-bursting wardrobes, to keep up with fleeting TikTok fashion trends and, most importantly, to appear on their well-curated social media accounts. The fashion industry has undergone a significant shift in recent years, rapidly adapting to the purchasing habits of modern consumers. Above all, people are seeking more clothing than ever before, and this sartorial excess comes at the cost of the environment.

Clothing is one of the fastest-growing categories of waste worldwide, and this is rapidly becoming a major cause of environmental damage that is predicted to have catastrophic future consequences. In 2018, the scandal of Burberry’s clothes-burning practices emerged, and sparked general outrage at such a display of careless, elitist, and unsustainable behaviour. Several other brands, such as H&M and Nike, were also reported to have been engaged in similar practices, but this is not the only consequence of excessive textile production: WRAP UK estimates that £140 million worth of clothing goes to landfill each year. If you widen the scope of consideration to include fashion’s extremely high carbon footprint, and the water-intensive crops used in the production of new garments, it is clear that modern fashion is rapidly becoming a major contributor to the climate crisis.

Now more than ever, it is imperative to re-evaluate the impact that your clothing choices have on the environment. While it is impossible to completely distance yourself from the fashion industry and the capitalist ideals it’s enmeshed with, you can follow these tips to make your fashion choices more sustainable.

1 – Shop second-hand

It goes without saying that one of the easiest ways to reduce your consumption of fast fashion is to purchase and wear clothes that are already in general circulation. Plus, with the growing pressure on women to avoid wearing an outfit more than once, there are more garments than ever before that are in need of a second home.

Fashion marketplace apps such as Depop are excellent places to find preloved and vintage clothes – and you generally find yourself spending less than if you were to purchase the same items on the high street. EX4 Homeless Society have a Depop account where profits go towards helping the homeless population in Exeter; you can find them at @ex4homeless if you’re interested in grabbing a bargain outfit while helping the local community. Or, if you’re looking for clothing from brands such as Urban Outfitters and Motel, the account @cometheroux has a huge selection of new and preloved garments. Depop also allows you to search for a particular item of clothing, and more recently it is able to suggest items that you may like based on your shopping habits. It is truly becoming easier and easier to shop second-hand from the comfort of your own home!

Exeter also has an incredible selection of charity shops located along Sidwell Street, Fore Street, and the High Street, where you can find hidden gems for a fraction of the retail price. Also, if you’re willing to spend a little more, you can check out Sobey’s on Gandy Street for an amazing range of vintage and reworked clothing, or The Real McCoy in McCoys Arcade for everything vintage and American retro. Whether you’re simply updating your winter wardrobe, or thinking about dressing up for Halloween, these stores should be your first stops!

2 – Use clothes borrowing websites

Special occasions such as parties and graduation ceremonies always seem to necessitate a new outfit that will ultimately get very little wear before being thrown away. However, there is an alternative that helps people to save money and to lessen their environmental impact: clothes borrowing websites. Sites such as Hire Street stock high-end clothing from brands such as Ghost, Talulah, Never Fully Dressed, and Finders Keepers, and allow customers to rent designer items for a fraction of the cost. So, that incredible Talulah dress that retails at £206? It’s suddenly within your budget, as you can rent it for four days for only £28. You may not be able to wear it again, but with hundreds of other designer items listed for a similar rental price, you won’t want to. Hire Street and its competitors are truly revolutionising the fashion industry by making designer garments accessible to all, while mitigating the environmental impact of the industry. Plus, you can order a dress in two different sizes, and only pay the rental fee for the one you wear. It’s a win-win situation!

3 – Buy once and buy well

Sometimes it’s necessary to purchase a brand-new item of clothing, and this can still be sustainable if you follow the principle of ‘buy once and buy well’. When contemplating a purchase, consider how much wear you will truly get out of it, along with factors such as the quality of the material, the timelessness of the design, and how well it complements the rest of your wardrobe. Although it runs counter to the message that fast fashion brands promote, purchasing fewer items of a higher quality will ultimately be better for both the planet and for your purse. So, choose wisely and invest in garments that will serve you for years to come. Also, if you can favour brands that use sustainable materials and practices – not just those who attempt to brand themselves as eco-friendly without taking any real action – you will be playing a small but essential part in making fashion more sustainable.

Alice Walters

Featured Image Source: Pexels

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