We have reached a point in society and media where climate change is at the forefront of our lives. Rising temperatures, ocean pollution and the oil industry are constantly touted as the big environmental villains, so much so that we overlook the most stylish environmental killer: fast fashion. According to The Fashion Law’s website, it involves “quickly translating high fashion design trends into low-cost apparel and accessories by low-cost mass retailers.”
This year’s Women Designing the Future conference, hosted by NJIT’s Murray Center for Women in Technology, offered a pragmatic approach to solving environmental problems, including those created by the fashion industry.
“Fast fashion is one of the worst environmental pollutants, so just spreading that information and making people realize that it’s something really bad for the environment” is a priority, said Murray Center coordinator Tara Walenczyk. .
The fashion production industry is responsible for a total of 10% of global carbon emissions. To produce an average t-shirt, 2700 liters of water are used, along with an incredible amount of harmful chemicals, pesticides and dyes that are often released into rivers and oceans as toxic wastewater. After production comes delivery by ship, train and truck. Cotton’s carbon footprint is enormous, according to “The Life Cycle of a T-Shirt,” a TED-Ed video released at the conference.
“The apparel industry is the second largest polluter in the world, second only to fossil fuels,” said Fran Sears, special projects manager at the Murray Center. “And I don’t think any of us really realized that until we started thinking about doing the clothes swap.”
Many companies rely heavily on the fast fashion business model of quickly designing, producing, delivering, wearing and throwing clothes. Famous examples include Shien, Zappos and Romwe. These companies are known for their low prices and low quality.
However, for most young people who are unaware of the fashion industry‘s impact on the environment, these low prices are incredibly attractive, and the companies’ products therefore sell out quickly. So our response to this environmental crisis must also be swift.
During the conference clothing exchange, event attendees were encouraged to bring any clothing they were willing to part with and exchange with other attendees. Even the simple process of selecting items to swap opened many participants’ eyes to the true extent of the waste that fashion produces.
“I was cleaning out my closet and found so many things that I didn’t want to wear anymore, but I just got them,” freshman computer science student and Murray Center Student Ambassador Hiba-UR-Rahman told Khalid. “It makes me more careful when shopping for clothes now.”
Other attendees were already avoiding fast fashion, and for them, the clothing swap reaffirmed their beliefs.
“I started watching videos on YouTube that talk about designers in the fashion industry and stuff, and I landed on the environmental side,” recalls third-year Human Interactions student Sarah Huezo. -machine. “I had so much information in my hands that I couldn’t do not do anything with it. I felt like it was my ethical responsibility to at least avoid contributing to all these disasters.
Thrifting, clothing swaps, and reusing and repairing old clothes are all simple, cheap, and viable ways to combat fast fashion. And sports finds and repaired clothes provide opportunities to educate others on the issue of fast fashion.
For Huezo, these solutions not only help the environment, but they assuage his own guilt over consumer habits. “I feel comfortable,” Huezo said of participating in the clothes swap. “I feel like I’m doing at least a little something to make a difference. Even though it’s not a lot, it’s still enough for me.
This story was produced in collaboration with CivicStory (www.civicstory.org) and the NJ Sustainability Reporting Project (www.SRhub.org).