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A Practical Responsible Consumption Guide for Fashion Lovers


We all have heard so much about the huge negative impact the fashion industry has on our environment. Being the second biggest greenhouse gas emitter, the fashion industry has a long way to go towards sustainability. On the bright side, there are already designers incorporating zero-waste and circularity into their garment design, brands participating in carbon capture projects to reduce their emission, and manufacturers innovating new approaches to recycle fabrics. Needless to day, all the players along the value chain need to do their part to make the garment industry green and clean, including the shoppers. 

One of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals is responsible consumption and production, which is essentially saying that we have too much overconsumption and overproduction to a point that it is not sustainable. The Clothing Sustainability Research Group led by Professor Tim Cooper from Nottingham Trent University discovered that people in average own 115 items of clothing, 30% of which have not been worn during the past year. These numbers are from 2018. I can only imagine how much they have increased over the past five years. 

The influence of fast fashion combined with social media created this illusional fear of missing out on the latest trend. This toxic consumerism culture is damaging our planet as well as our younger generation’s mental health. So what are the some of the practical ways for individual shoppers to play their part in responsible consumption? 

Here are my four practical S.T.A.R. steps for you to become a responsible consumer. 

Step 1: Choose Style, not trend. As Coco Chanel said, “Fashion is ephemeral, but style is eternal.” Star by regularly reviewing all the clothings you have in the wardrobe and collecting inspirational looks to your style board. This will help you make more rational purchase instead of driven by impulse. Overtime you will be proud of yourself for investing the time and effort to discover your unique style that no trend can match. 

Step 2: Teach yourself about sustainable fashion. With many brands trying to catch on the green trend and make profit off it, you can’t give all your trust to what the brand says. To avoid getting green washed, you need to proactively learn and teach yourself about sustainability and what it means to you. It could be favoring natural fiber over synthetic fiber. It could be choosing indie designers over mass-produced looks. There are many resources available online. One of which is a carbon emission calculator that gives you an estimate of the GHG emissions of a garment based on fabric composition, manufacturing country, and garment type. Give it a try at https://app.carbontag.co 

Step 3: Advocate for responsible consumption and sustainable fashion. It’s hard to make a difference with one person, but collectively real change can happen. Talk about sustainable fashion with your family and friends, participate in the “Who Made My Clothes” movement, and support your local community’s sustainability proposal. When there is enough awareness, there will be more participation. 

Step 4: Reuse, repurpose, and recycle as much as you can at the product’s life end. With a little bit of creativity, you will be surprised to find many second life opportunities for your pre-loved clothings. Donating them to the charity; having them altered for a new look; and reusing the fabrics for art and craft projects. There are much more you can do before they end up in the landfill. 


Sustainability of the fashion industry inquiry: Written evidence submitted by Professor Tim Cooper, Clothing Sustainability Research Group, Nottingham Trent University 

A Deep Dive into H&M Conscious Choice by Kai Cui, founder of Carbon Tag https://medium.com/@kaicui96/a-deep-dive-into-h-ms-conscious-choice-4af6780cfdd9  

Article compiled by Kai Cui

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