I'm summarising the final episode of The War on Waste this week, where Craig spoke about all things fashion. While this blog has some alarming stats, we (of course) shine a light on companies driving change and what we can do together, so join me!
This one hits particularly hard for me as I have done the full circle myself. From working for one of the largest fast-fashion companies in the world many years ago, I saw the behind-the-scenes world of fast fashion and learned so much about the not-so-glamourous side of the industry. I left and started my second-hand clothing store and learned through my journey how possible it is to express still and be a fashion lover without buying new and working for a zero-waste sustainable company. Like I said, full circle!
While I hold some shame around my fast fashion past, I wanted to deliver this blog for those who may have taken or been on a similar journey. We all start somewhere, and what we do today counts!
Let's dive into The War on Waste's final episode of the season…
The truth about fashion consumption in Australia:
Australians are one of the largest textile consumers in the world. We buy around 15kgs of clothing annually and throw away nearly 10kg per person; that's 227 million kilos of clothing in Australia per year. Shuffle around in your seat in discomfort? So did I.
At the beginning of this week's episode, Craig walked up to people on the street that had just been shopping at some of the largest retailers in Australia; he went through their shopping and explained that, on average, 30% of the clothing we buy we discard. So he had a wheely bin and pretended to throw away 30% of these people shopping.
Ninety-two million tonnes of fashion waste is generated globally, sending over 18,000 litres of oil into our Earth every hour in Australia alone. That's enough to make you want to make these changes, keep going with the changes you've already made or adapt even more to your sustainable fashion journey; we know it! We're with you.
For my fellow fashion lovers…
So why do we buy so many clothes? The message was clear: self-expression, identity and freedom were all words thrown around, and I agree! I love to express myself and get creative through fashion with my fellow fashionistas. However, we can still do this without consuming new textiles and supporting these cheap, planet-draining & plastic-made clothes.
Stay with me to the end, where I share my top tips and destinations on where to keep your fashion passion alive & ways we can work together to prevent sending textiles to landfill!
The cost of fashion has never been lower…
Textiles and manufacturing have never been cheaper. From labour to materials, synthetic and plastic fabrics have overruled the most commonly used fibres worldwide.
Fashion is being pumped out at record speeds, offered to us at lower prices than ever, and promoting child and slave labour. Did you know in four months last year, H&M released 14,000 new styles to their website, and in that same four months, Shein released over 315,000 new styles to their website, with prices as low as $2 for garments? Another uncomfortable shuffle in your seat? Me too.
Cotton accounts for ¼ of the fibre used to make our clothing in Australia. But did you know it takes 10,000 litres to make just 1kg of cotton? That's one T-shirt and a pair of jeans.
That's the entire Sydney Harbour water volume every year.
Right now, the fashion world is broken. Working together is the only way to create new mindsets and a circular fashion industry.
So here's the good news ... what we can do together!
Let's first look at what we can do with clothes we don't wear anymore.
Donate (wearable items): sooo many of us here are doing the right thing and donating our unwanted clothing & textiles. Unfortunately, due to bad quality, only 15% of what we present will be sold to consumers, while the other % are made into rags or thrown away. Our rule is "only donate what you would buy", meaning no stains, holes, etc...
Mend: In this week's episode, Craig visited Stitch Sisters, who offer workshops on how to mend your clothing. Did you know some countries even have incentives to encourage repairs over buying new ones? Excuse me; we are ready here in Australia too! If you don't wear it because it has a stain, you know stains stand no chance with this stain stick.
Recycle: Companies like Upparell and Tread Lightly accept our old shoes & textiles. Even your old socks are shredded into fibres to make things like pet beds & more. While many large corporations offer these recycling schemes, research and find companies you can trust, and don't be afraid to ask questions, especially after the collapse of the Red Cycle. Craig placed a tracker on a dress that he sent off to the Targets clothing recycling program, and it ended up at a paper shredding warehouse. ( this is still under investigation).
Compost it: did you know you can put natural fibres in your compost? All our old t-shirts go in our compost, and our worms loooove them. They turn our cotton t-shirts back into the soil. So magical!
After something new? Here are some ways you can help the planet and save a lot of money!
Thrifting: Get the same thrill as a good find in op-shops and vintage stores. Or thrift online. Marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, Depop and Vestiaire are great platforms to discover hidden vintage gems or shop the styles you've been looking at on other websites. You'll be surprised what you will find!
Rentals: when it is hard to reconcile the climate emergency with your love for fashion, there are many places where you can find designer brands at affordable prices. Look at DesignerEx, Glam Corner, The Volte and Style Theory, to name a few.
And the most crucial guidance is to check in with yourself and ask: Will I wear this in 3 months? Is this just a trend again? Also, looking through your wardrobe before shopping can be helpful as we often buy the same or similar things more than we'd think.
There are many initiatives, designers, students & organisations out there making a difference that we can support and shine a light on. Keep spreading the word, choosing second-hand, encouraging, or even teaching others to sew! It all helps. Together we can change the statistics, and it can start today.
Missed out on last week's episode? Don't worry; we covered it here. Thank you for tuning in and driving change with us!