Last week, ABN AMRO, together with the Dutch Impact Institute, published a report on the true cost of jeans. It turns out that the jeans we buy are €33 too cheap.
If the price of our jeans were to compensate for all social and environmental costs, they’d be €33 more expensive. This is a direct result of all the fast fashion we’re buying: the clothes have to be so quickly and cheaply produced that there is no regard for worker, environment, or quality.
In my previous blog, I explained about fast fashion and its devastating impact on the environment. Not buying fast fashion sounds like the easiest solution. But it’s not as simple as that.
Let’s start with pricing. Sustainable fashion can be a big investment.
We oftentimes forget that sustainable, durable clothing from organic cotton, produced with respect for the environment and workers from a local, eco brand can be too big of an investment for a lot of people. A sustainable and fair winter coat for example can cost well over €200. And if you’re a sole provider with a minimum wage, multiple mouths to feed, and high fixed costs then that’s just plain unaffordable. For those, Primark can be a blessing, giving you the opportunity to buy your kids various new clothes for a low price as kids grow out of them quickly.
Moving on to production: for all of our clothes to be produced sustainably, we’d need more agricultural grounds.
There are interesting alternatives like hemp and bamboo fibers or the development of double-purpose crops, but these techniques are now applied on too small a scale and still subject to refinement. This shows that simply quitting fast fashion at this very moment and in total isn’t a realistic option.
But no more fast fashion would definitely benefit the production workers, right?
If we were to quit fast fashion tomorrow, the predominantly female workers in the production countries would again find themselves on the short end. No work means no income, and no income means no food and housing. It also means they can no longer participate in programs that stores like H&M and Primark have set up. These programs aim to educate the female workers in the factories and focus on education, hygiene, and health. They have proven to reduce poverty, increase wages, gender equality, and female independence.
While writing this piece, I came to wonder whether the sustainable production of fashion is really that more expensive, or if the sustainability hype, next to the production techniques and fabrics, is also upping the prices. Sustainable living has become a status symbol: we still buy as much as we used too, we only spend more money while doing so.
My honest opinion is that we need a different mindset: we need to buy less, whether what we’re buying is sustainable or not. For now, fast fashion is here to stay as we are working our way to a more sustainable and fair fashion industry. Here’s how to reduce your Fashion Footprint in the meantime without immediately having to invest your savings in sustainable fashion:
· By at least doubling the number of times an item is worn, the greenhouse gas emissions of the fashion industry are almost halved. By being more conscious of what you buy, you increase the chance of wearing it more often. Ask yourself if you’re really going to wear what you’re about to buy and whether it matches with what you already own.
· Don’t buy all your clothes online. I know Zalando is addictive, but the packaging, shipping, and returning of online bought pieces makes for a lot more CO2 emissions than buying from a physical store.
· Rethink your laundry habits. One full load is much better for the environment than washing a few items every day.
· Take good care of your wardrobe to increase the lifespan.
· Buy second-hand, swap or rent your clothes, and recycle.
Want to know how good (or bad) you are doing? Calculate your Fashion Footprint via www.fashionfootprint.org and share your results with us! My wardrobe impact is sky high, but my shopping and washing habits make up for that (a little ;) ).
See you next time!