McCabe: Consider effects of fast fashion when summer shopping

As spring begins to make an appearance at Augie, summer days are becoming less of a fantasy students have during the blustery cold of South Dakota’s winter “wonderland.” Summer weather includes fun activities with family and friends, a break from the school grind and time in the sun. With the rise in temperature, a change in wardrobes is needed — unless being wrapped in a wooly sweater on a 90 degree day is more your style. 

The different trends circulating the internet influence the summer attire of many people. Hopping onto this fast fashion trend, inexpensive and trendy clothing produced by mass market retailers is seemingly harmless. However, according to Earth.org, fast fashion depletes non-renewable resources, increases the emission of greenhouse gases and uses up an enormous amount of water and energy. Approximately 200 gallons of water are used to produce one cotton shirt, and 2,000 gallons of water are used to produce one pair of jeans. Leftover water dyes, the second largest water polluter in the world, are dumped into rivers and streams, according to Earth.org. 

These fast fashion clothes are made with non-biodegradable fibers such as polyester, nylon and acrylic. Earth.org states that 80 billion new pieces of clothing are consumed by the world each year, with 82 pounds of textile waste coming from the average American. 

Along with the environmental issues that fast fashion presents, the social impacts are just as detrimental, especially in developing countries. Child labor, poor and dangerous working conditions, little pay and the dismissal of environmental regulations are major causes for concern. 

Luckily, there are clothing brands that make sustainability a priority. Patagonia is one of these clothing companies. Sixty-four percent of the company’s fabrics are made with recycled materials, and 100% of the cotton used is grown organically. Patagonia is involved in many programs that support the environment, and ensure fair working conditions and wages. 

“We aim to use the resources we have — our voice, our business and our community — to do something about our climate crisis,” Patagonia stated on its website, detailing environmental activism. 

Reducing the impact of its environmental footprint takes precedence over the production of materials. 

Another clothing company called Girlfriend Collective makes ethically-sourced clothing from different recycled materials such as polyester, post consumer bottles, fishing nets, a fiber called cupro (made from the waste that the cotton industry leaves behind) and other recycled materials. 

“We are like the earth’s number one fan, so being eco-friendly is at the top of our priorities, as is giving you as much information as possible,” Girlfriend Collective’s website stated. 

Information about where the company’s materials come from, why it uses these materials, how and where it produces its clothes, and why the company is sustainable can also be found on the website. 

The challenge of searching for sustainable clothing brands is not as hard as it seems. The website Eco Stylist is a sustainable clothing directory that allows a person to customize what they are looking for through different filters such as the types of clothing, gender, country and rating of how sustainable the brand is. Eco Stylist explains and gives ratings of certified, silver and gold to different clothing brands based on the transparency, fair labor practices and sustainability of each company. They score the brand out of eight points on leadership, diversity and inclusion. Eco Stylist is a helpful resource when looking for sustainable clothing brands to expand one’s summer wear. 

The downfall to these sustainable clothing brands is that many are expensive. For a college student on a budget, it is easy to be tempted into buying fast fashion to save a few bucks. However, thrift shopping is both affordable and sustainable. As thrift stores become increasingly more popular, less clothes are thrown into landfills, there is less pollution and a decrease in resource waste. The positives that come with thrift shopping are enormous. 

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