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FASHION: CAN IT BE FAST AND FRIENDLY?

FASHION:  CAN IT BE FAST AND FRIENDLY?

The damage we, as human beings, are causing to the environment is becoming more apparent and more concerning every year. By destroying the rain forest, we are misplacing thousands of animals, plants and birds and, in turn, threatening the world’s biodiversity. By polluting the ocean with plastic, we are sabotaging marine life as well as contaminating the food chain. And, by driving cars fuelled by petrol or diesel, we are contributing to greenhouse gases and aiding global warming. It’s a subject that has dominated headlines for some time and which requires urgent attention if we are to protect and preserve our planet.

Whilst action is required by world leaders in order to tackle this global, catastrophic issue, there are certain things that we, as individuals, can do to help. Using less plastic is, of course, the obvious solution although avoiding it altogether is virtually impossible. So, where the purchase of plastic is necessary, the proper disposal of it is vital.

But there are other, less obvious, things we can do to clean up our act and reduce our carbon footprint. I’m not talking about taking the bus instead of your car, or reducing the number of flights you take each year, or even fixing solar panels to your roof (although all of those things would be beneficial). I’m talking about ethical fashion.

Believe it not, the fashion industry is the second largest contributor to global landfill. Thanks to the huge amount of clothes we throw out, textiles are now a key source of greenhouse gas emissions with an estimated £30 billion worth of clothing going to landfill each year. Knowing Kuwait as I do, I suspect a significant contribution comes from our very own Gulf state.

So, what can we do about it? Well, buying less is the most obvious answer. How many of us have clothes in our wardrobe we have never worn, or have only worn once? Smart shopping is essential if we are to tackle this damaging throwaway attitude. We should only buy the clothes we need and approach our clothing purchases the same as we do our diet; in other words, with emphasis on natural sources. Avoid non-biodegradables such as nylon and polyester and opt for natural alternatives instead. Materials like organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, recycled polyester, linen and organic wool may be more expensive but they are less harmful to the environment. They feel good too. Study the labels before buying and, where possible, research the production processes. Good On You, the ethical fashion app, rates brands based on their human, animal and environmental cost, encouraging you to ‘wear the change you want to see.’

Fashion, by its very nature, changes with the seasons. The key is, therefore, to buy better. The better the quality, the longer it will last. It’s believed that by wearing one item of clothing at least thirty times, individuals are supporting a sustainable future. Fast, cheap fashion may seem the ideal solution in order to keep up with ever-changing trends, but it’s not just the financial cost that needs to be considered. The cost to our environment is far greater.

Obviously, there comes a time when we must dispose of our clothes but throwing them away is not the way to do it. Donating them to charity is one way of reducing clothing landfill. Depending on the charity, they will either sell them to raise funds for good causes or donate them directly to those in need. Alternatively, you can gift them to someone less fortunate than yourself. If you prefer, you could sell the clothes. There are various on-line auction sites encouraging others to buy your unwanted clothes and, in turn, allowing you to recoup some of the original cost. Bearing in mind it takes 1,800 gallons of water to make one single pair of jeans, extending the life of your denims would certainly be prudent.

There is, however, another way of prolonging the life of your clothes. Swapping them with your friends is an ideal way of avoiding their premature arrival at landfill. This increasingly popular practice is now widely considered as the perfect scenario when it comes to saving money as well as the planet. Cocktail dresses and ball gowns are the most popular items when it comes to ‘shwapping,’ a term/practice originally invented by Oxfam and M&S, designed to make it easier to give your unwanted clothes a second life.

Another option to consider is rental. Whilst I’ve yet to see evidence of this in Kuwait, the number of clothing hire outlets in the UK and the US is growing rapidly. It’s understood that almost a third of UK shoppers are willing to rent their clothes in an effort to reduce clothing landfill. The increased awareness of the environmental impact of typical high street, fast fashion brands has enabled ethically minded entrepreneurs to capitalize on new attitudes and provide a positive alternative to fashion conscious, yet environmentally aware, shoppers. Let’s hope it doesn’t take too long for Kuwait to follow suit.

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