Nearly all of us are guilty of over-consuming and it’s having a direct, damaging impact on our planet, to say the least. Annually, we buy 80 billion pieces of clothing – a 400% upsurge over the last 20 years and indicative of a wide and growing problem. Producing these clothes depends on significant amounts of work and resources. The amount of water required to produce the 80 billion pieces mentioned above, for example, would fill 32 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. Our shopping habits have become out of hand, and it’s an issue that needs addressed immediately.

That said, fashion at its core is an art form, and no one should be limited with the way they want to express themselves. But when it equals devastating impacts on the environment, then it’s time to question whether it’s actually worth it. After all, when the world’s burning up and unlivable, those clothes are going to feel pretty uncomfortable, are we right? Though it sometimes feels impossible to resist or avoid a cheap t-shirt or pair of socks, it really is time to take a step back before it’s too late; our 5 IDEAL ways to forgo fast fashion.

KNOW THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF THE MATERIALS YOU USE 

Experiments have suggested that it can take 1800 gallons of water to grow the cotton to make just one pair of jeans. Moreover,  cotton accounts for almost 50% of the total fibre used to make our clothes and is responsible for 18% of worldwide pesticide use and 25% of total insecticide use. Think about that next time you’re pondering a £9 pair from Primark.

Leather production has been known to have dangerous implications against the environment and human health, too. So much so, in fact, that studies have shown that leather tannery workers are at a greater risk of cancer by between 20-50%, as well as the harmful chemicals involved are polluting natural water sources and having a devastating impact on nearby communities. The list could go on. It’s therefore vital to educate yourself on the true effect of such seemingly innocuous shopping choices.

SECOND HAND

Of course, the single most efficient way to reduce your fashion footprint is to simply stop buying new clothes altogether. For some, that may sound like a proposition too radical to bear, but hear us out. There are myriad ways to never have to hit the high street again. Give charity shops your custom with vigour and regularity. There are some amazing finds lurking on the rails of your local British Heart Foundation or Mind, and you’ll be helping a valuable cause in the process of purchase, too. There really is no reason not to.

UPCYCLE & REPURPOSE OLD CLOTHES

Upcycling old clothes that are still in good condition but not necessarily in fashion is a smart, savvy way to readdress your wardrobe and redress yourself. If you’re handy with the old thread and needle, you could repurpose old items and turn them into something new and groovy in no time. Giving a new lease of life to a benched bit of clothing can bring added sentimental value, encourage creativity and most of all, it’ll without doubt be a unique, one-of-a-kind piece. Thrift has never sounded so fashionable.

SWAP AND RENT 

In the spirit of reusing, suggest to friends a swapping session. We’ve all got those outfits we’ve fallen out of love with, which don’t have anything implicitly wrong with them, they’re just out of favour. Well, snap! So why not gather up the items gathering dust in the back of your wardrobe and see if any friends fancy trying them out for size. Should you have something which still can’t find a body for, donate them to that aforementioned local charity shop. And if you really do need to buy a new piece, prioritise fair trade purchases.

EMBRACE A LOOK LESS IDENTIKIT

If we’re all shopping at H&M, Topshop and Zara (disclaimer: other high street stores do exist), then it’s safe to say we’re all going to look a little similar, right? There’s probably another person reading this article right now wearing the exact same pair of underwear as you (not the actual same, but you get our gist) and though that might excite the odd person, generally it’s not a particularly enthralling thought. But in forgoing fast fashion, you’ll be embracing the chance to have a look all your own, leaving the identikit styles of the high street to the sheep who shop there. We’ve written more about creating your own unique wardrobe here; check it out!