“The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world … second only to oil,” the recipient Eileen Fisher of an environmental award told a stunned Manhattan audience earlier this year. – Source
I’ve been vegan for nearly two years now. I’ve worked part-time in retail even longer. I’ve seen the waste retail produces and this is why I believe minimalism and veganism go hand in hand. For someone who’s primary reason for switching to a vegan lifestyle were the environmental impacts, I find minimalism just as important. Words cannot describe the amount of paper, plastic and other waste (I work in fashion retail, I am sure food waste is just as horrible) I see every day. Add to that lack of recycling and politicians’ denial of global warming and you have yourself a recipe for an early grave. I simply cannot understand how people are so careless towards the planet we live on, no wealth or power will be able to save civilization if this planet ceased to exist. The environment should be a priority yet what we see is politicians ignoring the issue and proclaiming it a faux Chinese invented concept, yes, I mean you Mr. Trump.
“When natural fibers, like cotton, linen and silk, or semi-synthetic fibers created from plant-based cellulose, like rayon, Tencel and modal, are buried in a landfill, in one sense they act like food waste, producing the potent greenhouse gas methane as they degrade. But unlike banana peels, you can’t compost old clothes, even if they’re made of natural materials.” – Source
While I appreciate the sentiment of companies like H&M, Levis, Adidas and Nike that are working towards recycling old products/clothes and making new ones, I also feel like this is just a step to further feed the monster that is our consumer based society. As a conscious human, I chose to simply not purchase. Think about it – fast fashion is creating the waste crisis – that by no means is environmentally conscious despite any ‘green’ efforts made by these companies.
The carbon footprint fashion industry leaves behind is tremendous especially when one considers the complex process of creating a garment – production, raw material, textile manufacturing, clothing constructing, shipping, retail, use and ultimately disposal of the garment. Now with this perspective in mind imagine that cheap Primark shirt (ignoring all the other ethical issues that the production has like child labor etc.) you bought yesterday and then a week later threw out because of its poor quality. The cheap price tag really makes throwing away something without a second thought easy. All this waste isn’t magically disappearing, it simply ends up in huge rubbish tips, which pose a serious threat to the environment. According to WRAP, very year 350 000 tons of used clothing (worth estimated £140 million) wind up into the landfill in the UK. By 2050 studies warn that there might be more rubbish than fish in the ocean if this were to carry on without a change.
Fast fashion is not going anywhere, unfortunately. The leading fast fashion retailers have grown 9.7 percent every year over the last 5 years overshadowing the 6.8 percent growth of the traditional apparel companies. It is up to us – consumers – to choose where and what we buy because demand equals support.
“While cotton, especially organic cotton, might seem like a smart choice, it can still take more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. (..) Globalization means that your shirt likely traveled halfway around the world in a container ship fueled by the dirtiest of fossil fuels.” – Source
The bigger picture is very grim, though. As a student, for example, juggling work and school I barely have enough finances to support myself and I work with Eileen Fisher’s produce at work, while I appreciate the design, quality and environmental consideration of the brand, I am also very much aware of the price tag for such garments. To simply put it – it is outside my budget – and I would assume this is the case for a lot of people. Sadly, fast fashion is simply more affordable and accessible.
This is where minimalism really comes into play. As a minimalist, when I purchase something, I consider the feel of the fabric, the quality of stitching etc. Even if I buy and unfortunately contribute to the beast that fast fashion is, I still try to purchase garments that are higher quality with the intent of these lasting longer. I purchase ‘better‘ items and far less than I would imagine an average woman my age does. While I acknowledge the disastrous environmental situation leaves very little place for compromise, I feel as though it is the solution for me at this time and I’d like to hope, if more people were to consider this maybe these small changes could lead to a greater change.
While veganism and minimalism aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, I believe it is a necessity for those, who believe in helping this planet and dare to call themselves ‘environmentalists‘.
So what can we do? Well, you can…
- buy less,
- buy second-hand,
- buy sustainable garments,
- consider what and where are you buying from,
- don’t just throw out, wear it out and then recycle it,
- create demand for sustainable textiles and manufacturing,
- speak out.
I guess, this is just a thought to consider and while you do, my handful of readers, I encourage you to share some kindness with the world!