Slowing Down Fast Fashion’s Impact on the Planet
During lent this year our Waste Minimisation Team embarked on Labour Behind the Label’s Six Items Challenge. From 1st March – 13th April 2017 we went on a fashion fast to raise awareness about the impacts of textile waste on the environment. Each person from our team was assigned a week where they chose six items from their closet to wear all week. The challenge allows unlimited access to underwear, accessories, footwear and sportswear. In order to complete the entire length of the challenge Roger, the only male on the team, was assigned 12 days and Gemma took an extra week.
Why the Six Items Challenge
According to WRAP’s Love Your Clothes Campaign, every year an estimated £140 million worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK. There is absolutely no need for any clothing or textiles to make its way into a bin and this is both a significant environmental loss and a missed business opportunity. In recent years, fashion cycles have sped up with some shops stock changing every 4 to 6 weeks. The quick turnover encourages us to buy more to keep up with the latest trends and thus means we all produce more waste. In order to bring attention to wasteful practices in the fashion industry and to demonstrate alternative ways of reducing waste, we’ve taken the the six items challenge on!
Meet the Team
You can follow each of our team members challenge here. Our team had mixed results, with most agreeing it was no walk in the park. There were a number of reasons for slip ups and lots of insight afterwards.
Our team is predominantly female, with Roger as the odd man out. Our ages span from about 25-40. Half of the team have children. Some of us are self professed fashion enthusiasts, while others of us do not take an interest in it. With our various backgrounds we think we have a good mix to show the pitfalls and positives of the challenge.
Weather was a major factor contributing to some slip ups. Six items just wasn’t enough for the end of British winter. Roger particularly had issues with weather, as he needed to be appropriately dressed for his son’s football matches – not so easy in muddy March-time.
Washing items also gave many of our team members hesitation. While we’re aiming to raise awareness about textile waste, there is also an environmental issue around the energy used to wash clothes. With only six items, machine washing only makes economic and environmental sense if team members lived with other people they could wash their clothes together with.
Can We Slow Fast Fashion Down?
By conducting this challenge, we were really asking ourselves whether we feel part of the problem when it comes to fast fashion. For the majority of us, that answer was yes. Clothing is not only about utility. As Emma points out in her blog, our personal fashion makes a statement about who we are. We don’t only wear clothes for their functionality, but also to make us feel good when we’re conducting our daily business.
As many of us feel part of the fast fashion problem, we’ve come up with some ideas to create more sustainable wardrobes. Here are some of our top tips:
- When shopping for a new item. Ask yourself the following four questions: “Do I really love it? Will I wear it? Do I actually have something to wear it with? Who made my clothes and does the price really reflect the working conditions I’d want to encourage for that person?” –Sarah
- “Buy items you truly like, instead of just going with the trend.” –Christin
- “Maximise your washing schedule to mitigate energy use.” –Roger
- “Follow Livia Firths 30 wear challenge, whereby you only buy something if you think you’ll wear it at least 30 times!” –Emma
- “Purchase high quality staple clothing and don’t be afraid to wear it day-in and day-out” –Anna
- “Customise what you already have or items you find to show off your unique style.” –Gemma