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2021 New Year's Resolution

I set a 2021 new year’s resolution to buy no new brand new clothes. In true Martha style, I went cold-turkey (tofu?) and had a complete change of mindset overnight. That same lightbulb switch that allowed me to go vegan overnight when I was 17, and never look back.

The backstory

Prior to 2021, I was a self proclaimed online shopping queen. I placed multiple orders weekly and would scroll through shopping apps like it was going out of fashion (pardon the pun). I knew it was wrong and that buying brand new clothes was detrimental to my carbon and water footprints, but I justified it with my vegan diet. I almost believed I was doing enough for the planet with my diet and this allowed me to shop to my heart’s desire. However, after going on several climate marches and preaching about climate change on my own social media, I began to feel very hypocritical. My words and actions were not aligning and it was time to stop justifying my actions. I realised that it was impossible to ‘do enough’ for the planet through my diet; there’s no such thing as doing enough when it comes to climate change.

Fashion Footprint Facts

  • Approximately 60% of all materials used by the fashion industry are made from plastic.
  • The fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of humanity’s carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. If the fashion sector continues on its current trajectory, that share of the carbon budget could jump to 26% by 2050.
  • Around 20% of industrial wastewater pollution worldwide originates from the fashion industry. 
  • It can take up to 20,000 litres of water to produce one cotton t-shirt and one pair of jeans. Countries that tend to produce clothes on a mass scale are often countries with water scarcity. Fashion production greatly contributes to water inequality. 

Where to start

I deleted all fast fashion shopping apps, unsubscribed from their emailing list and unfollowed all of their Instagram accounts. This ensured I wasn’t constantly tempted by the fast fashion devils (other than through targeted adverts which overtime subsided, as I was no longer their target audience). I swapped fast fashion apps to second hand apps such as Vinted, Ebay and Depop.

How I shopped slowly

The secret to shopping sustainably is being organised. If you have an event coming up that you ‘need’ an outfit for, start shopping a few weeks in advance to ensure that you can choose, order and receive the item in time. The appeal of fast fashion is the speed of how quickly you can receive items, with the majority of businesses offering next-day delivery. It goes without saying that this is not the case when buying slow fashion.

In terms of buying general, day to day clothes, second hand sites are very user-friendly platforms. A great deal of items on these second-hand sites are brand new with tags. I also found that I was now able to buy expensive brands that I could never afford brand new! I managed to create the exact wardrobe I wanted, with a considerably lower impact on the environment and for a greatly reduced price. I was allowed to still be obsessed with fashion, but in a way which is a lot less harmful to the environment. My favourite item bought in 2021 was my bridesmaid dress for my sister’s wedding. We managed to buy 6 matching bridesmaid dresses for £10 each! It is so surprising what you can find.

As with fast fashion shopping, it regularly occurs that you purchase an item that does not fit, or may not suit you. Unlike fast fashion, you can’t return the item and get your money back; so sell it on! I ventured into selling clothes too and this was a complete success. It turns out that people want to buy my old clothes, shoes and bags! I have made a significant amount of money from selling, although I’ve definitely spent more than I’ve earned, because I’m addicted to buying. I always reuse the packaging that I’m sent and lots of other sellers do the same; reusing packaging is another simple switch.

Exploitation of Garment Workers

It would be insensitive to fail to mention the social-injustices of the fashion industry, but this would take another blog in itself. The exploitation of garment workers, often described as modern day slavery, is catalysted by the fast fashion industry. This is another reason to avoid buying brand new!

Final Thoughts

As a result of completing my 2021 new year’s resolution, I have adopted habits for life. I now go straight to second-hand shops for clothes and will continue to buy primarily second-hand for life. Shopping second hand is eco and logical.

At the beginning of 2022 I started a new job at ekologik and I am so lucky to be working for a company that reflects my morals and beliefs. ekologik seeks to overcome overconsumption, particularly in terms of plastic and offers an affordable and effective solution to this. The environment would definitely benefit from us all reusing what we’ve already got. And to leave you with a question that always crosses my mind: what would happen if the world just  stopped producing clothes, this second? We’d certainly have a greener planet.

Martha x

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