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fast fashion

The problem with fast fashion – 5 ways you can curb climate change and still be on trend

It’s the New Year! And with the start of 2021, comes a new start with yearly resolutions for many of us as we look to improve our habits over the next twelve months.

From getting fitter, working on a good self-care routine or looking for a new job: it’s the time for self-improvement and self-protection.

It’s a great way to look after ourselves, but what about the beautiful planet we’ve been blessed to share for another year?

Without a doubt, 2020 was a tough year for humankind with the ongoing pandemic. But of course: we mustn’t forget that we need to look after the planet.

Climate change, after all, is still on the increase, despite the minor achievements gained at the beginning of the first lockdown when pollution levels momentarily decreased as we drove less, flew less and burnt fewer fossil fuels.

The holiday season brings with it a lot of shopping, with endless sales encouraging us to pick up a bargain. And as we enter another lockdown, it’s tempting to spend time buying more clothing online.

As people look for the latest fashion trends at the cheapest prices, fast fashion is more popular than ever. However, this comes at a tremendous cost to the planet, so we have to ask ourselves: is fast fashion worth the cost?Firstly, many may think that the pandemic must have curbed our spending habits.

Well, it is true that footfall has declined on our high streets. We’re simply hitting the high stress far less – or not at all. However, the reality is that shopping hasn’t stopped – it’s simply shifted online.

Online shopping has become more popular than ever with purchases of clothing increasing from 30% to 77% in 2020 in the second quarter of 2020, when many non-essential shops were shut. Online budget fashion retailers such as Boohoo, ASOS and Shein for example are all incredibly popular here in the UK.

Whilst this is of course positive for business, what is often neglected in the glitzy fashion columns or the retail therapy guides is the carbon consequences of our fashion choices.

Quite simply: if we save with fast fashion, the planet plays the price.


Fast fashion: The deadly cost to the planet

Rather shockingly, fast fashion is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions. That’s more than all international and maritime shipping combined.

But how, you may ask? Well, from production and shipping, what we’re wearing all costs in materials and energy. And it’s a monumental affair.

For example, each year alone, the fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic metres of water.

That’s enough to meet the consumption needs of a staggering five million people. And we must remember that people in some parts of the world are battling climate-induced drought.

Around 20% of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment alone. The cost of our fashion then rises further from production to delivery.

When it’s time for delivery, a pair of jeans will have used up to 3,781 litres of water. This equates to the equivalent of emission of around 33.4 kilograms of carbon.

Quite simply, fast fashion not only uses a lot of energy but is becoming increasingly popular. And the more we buy, the more we pollute.

At the present rate, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will increase by more than 50% by 2030.

So, whilst the public continues to enjoy access to cheap, ready-to-wear regular additions to the high street, the planet and its wildlife continue to feel the impact.

Every year, half a million tons of plastic microfibers – found in cheap clothing – are dumped into the ocean. That’s the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles. And of course, this can be devastating to wildlife which can accidentally consume such plastic waste.

This plastic blocks creatures’ digestive tracts, lowers their appetite and alters the way they feed and eat. This ultimately means that wildlife which has consumed plastic grow and reproduce less.

With their stomachs filled with plastic, some species literally starve to death.

And this is all due to our purchasing and waste habits…


Our sacred duty: How to consume more responsibly

As Muslims, we’re each a khalif (guardian) of the Earth, responsible for looking after Allah’s sacred Creation. It’s therefore vital that our consumer habits reflect this responsibility and sacred amanah (trust) placed upon us by Our Creator.

This of course includes our shopping and fashion habits.

It’s particularly important as the fashion industry continues to grow. Today, the average person purchases around 60% more clothing than in 2000.

What’s more, globally less than 1% of used clothing is later recycled to be made into new clothes. This means billions of pounds in potential revenue lost in the process and lots of excess wastage of materials.

There’s a lot that needs to be done. Whilst unworn clothes lie hanging in wardrobes, used clothes are being dumped in landfill sites. This must stop!

Thankfully there’s a way forward. Here are our top five ways you can avoid the perils of fast fashion and better protect the environment.

Take a look!


1. Recycle: One person’s rubbish is another’s treasure

We’ve all got items in our wardrobe we don’t wear, unloved clothes just sitting in bags in the attic never to see the light of day again.

So, why not have a good clear-out and recycle your unwanted items?

By donating your items to a charity shop (such as ours!), you’re not only giving your clothes a new lease of life, but you’re also helping to save lives too through the work of Islamic Relief.

With clothing banks all over the country too, it’s now easier than ever to recycle your unwanted threads. Recycling makes a real difference to the environment and helps you de-clutter your home. So, with lockdown keeping us at home, it’s a great time to sort out our unwanted clothing at home to take to the shops later on!


2. Recreate: Get your upcycling “hat” on

Back in the days, I remember my Mum and Nan getting creative and sewing their own clothes.  This trend seems to have dwindled. However, with lots of “easy hacks” videos on Facebook and YouTube, upcycling seems to have come back into fashion!

Waste not, want not as they say! So rather than throwing out a tired old item and buying something new, why not get creative?

Turn those old jeans into a bag, make a dress from those trousers you’re tired of or customise a tired T-shirt with a stencil.

With a needle and thread, a glue gun, some sequins or paints, the sky’s your (creative) limit!


3. Repair: Make do and mend!

It’s amazing what a needle and thread can do! An item of clothing that you may have given up on, may just need a little TLC.

From replacing buttons, sewing over holes with embroidery designs (there are lots of simple videos on Facebook), shortening hems and replacing elastic sleeves – don’t throw away that T-shirt, jumper or pair of trousers!

There’s often a whole lease of life in our clothes. So, get out a needle and thread (or sewing machine!) and put away your debit card. You’ll be helping the planet in the process and showing your resourcefulness at the same time!


4. Resource ethically: Switch to sustainable shops

If you’re desperate for new garbs, why not choose an eco-ethical fashion brand?

There’s an increasing number of sustainable fashion outlets who invest in organic materials and more environmentally-conscious processes for creating and selling their items.

Take a look here:

What’s more, if you’re looking for something a little more budget-friendly, why not shop in second-hand outlets such as the vintage platform Thrifted and Depop?

You can also shop using social media through Facebook (marketplace/groups) or the app Shpock. Don’t forget our own Islamic Relief charity shops too (pandemic-allowing)!


5. Reject: Remember that less is more!

In the Holy Qur’an, Allah (SWT) talks to us clearly on the issue of wastefulness:

And do not waste, for God does not love the wasteful. (6:141)

Therefore, why not adopt a minimalist wardrobe which consists of a few versatile co-ordinating mix-and-match pieces?

It’ll be easier to build your outfits and will definitely save in storage space!

What’s more, you’ll not only be helping the environment but wildlife and other humans too.

Firstly, the growing rate of climate-induced disaster is devastating communities across the globe – those who are already most vulnerable to unemployment, displacement and famine.

Secondly, it’s important to remember that the fast fashion industry is not only affecting people through carbon emissions. Greater demand for cheap clothes here in the global North also creates/amplifies exploitative working practices in the global South.

Forced labour – including child labourinsufficient/low wages and poor working conditions are a tragic reality for many of the same people that are already affected by climate change.


Take action today: Write to the PM

We urgently need to combat climate change and with these five top tips, you can make a real difference at home and within your social circles to reduce wastage and consumption.

By introducing simple changes in your consumption habits, you’ll be supporting vulnerable communities directly affected by climate change overseas and helping to save lives. So, don’t forget to keep us in the loop of your up-cycling creations by tagging us on social media!

However, we still need to do more. It’s vital that we call on governments to help create long-term change on a global level.

By signing up to The Time is Now’s Climate Change Declaration, you’ll be directly calling on the PM to do more to tackle climate change. Please, take action today.


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