When you think of Big Business, fashion probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But as a $2.5 trillion dollar industry, apparel is one of the most important enterprises in the world. It’s also one of the biggest users of valuable commodities like water and energy. There are about 7.8 billion people on the planet today and the projected population for 2050 is 10 billion. More people will mean more demand and increased pressure on already scarce resources. But with limited raw materials, we cannot indefinitely create new and heedlessly discard the old. But ‘fashion’ means change, while ‘sustainable’ implies goods that continue to be used after they have lost their novelty. So can fashion ever be sustainable? Let’s explore.
Fast Fashion = Loaded Landfills
The average consumer today buys 60% more clothing than just 20 years ago. We’ve grown used to cheap, throw-away clothes. We wear it a couple of times, if at all, then toss it. The United States throws away about 85% of its clothes — some 13 million tons of textiles — each year. The United Nations Economic Commission estimates that 40% of clothing hanging in the closets of the developed world never gets worn even once. The obvious answer is to wear what you already own — and to not buy cheap, poorly-constructed apparel in the first place. Classic, quality pieces stand the test of time and save you money in the long run. By the way, fashion applies to more than clothing. No one needs another string of cheap plastic beads, whereas classics like pearls can last a lifetime. For example, a pearl choker never goes out of style and looks great with everything. Buying fewer things is better for the environment, and your wallet.