Do you ever wonder what happens to the clothes we don’t use anymore? The ones that we outgrew, torn, or just never used again? Or maybe those that didn’t sell at retail stores? More often than not, they end up in landfills. If not landfills, they are burnt or thrown out carelessly, sometimes ending up in waterways. Globally, the textile industry produces one-fifth of the world’s industrial water pollution. In fact, the fashion industry is also responsible for 8% of the world’s carbon emissions — that puts it ahead of international aviation and shipping combined.
And to what can we attribute a large portion of these staggering statistics? That would be fast fashion. Fast fashion is when retailers make catwalk trends readily available and inexpensive for regular people like you and me. This often means that clothes are quickly cycled through as seasonal trends change. It’s the popular shops like H&M, Zara, and Forever21, as well as the fashionable stores that many influencers and Youtubers like to promote on social media (think Fashion Nova, Nasty Gal, and Shein).
While these clothes seem to be the next “in” thing, there is no denying that the fast fashion industry is doing way more harm than good. The problem with fast fashion is that not only does it require a heavy production process, it’s that it requires this process to constantly produce, as the clothes created are generally cheap and low quality. In short, they aren’t made to last.
This means that we end up in an endless loop of buying new clothes every season, with our closets and landfills getting fuller and fuller. Not to mention that the industry employs severely underpaid women from developing countries to make these clothes.
Lucky for us, there’s a way to prevent this problem from getting worse. We can start simply by buying less. The skirt we think or need or the pants we see advertised to us on social media aren’t actually necessities. The truth is, we have enough clothes.
Making sure our clothes stay away from landfills is also equally important. Many organizations take donations for lightly used garments, while others help to properly recycle those that are no longer good for use.
In the Philippines, many brands have turned to more sustainable practices to satisfy consumers’ thirst for style. One such brand, TELAStory Inc., takes sustainability to heart. The brand makes sure to employ women with a fair living wage and uses biodegradable or locally-sourced waste fabrics for their clothing.
Thrifting has also made a comeback in recent years, with ukays now being frequented by the younger generation. Popular locations are the Anonas ukay and Makati Cinema Square. In the time of this pandemic, thrift shops on Instagram have also established a market for themselves. Shops like @makaluma.ph and @thrift.havenn are one of many that offer secondhand and vintage clothes.
So maybe think twice before you buy yet another shirt. Mother Earth will thank you for that choice.